The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's largest association of physicians, said Tuesday it officially opposed "conversion therapy" for members of the LGBTQ community and urged the federal government to ban such procedures nationwide.
"It is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people," Dr. William Kobler, a member of the AMA board, said in a statement. "Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety."
Conversion therapy, according to the organization, is the discredited practice of trying to change a person's sexual identity from lesbian, gay or bisexual to heterosexual, or attempting to make a transgender person identify with the gender assigned at birth. Usually, this is done through counseling. However, as previously reported by Newsweek, it can also involve methods such as electroshock therapy and deprivation treatments that are meant to cause "heterosexual adjustment."
Medical professionals have dismissed conversion therapy as "patently false," saying it is based on the mistaken notion that same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is "unnatural." The American Psychiatric Association made an official statement opposing conversion therapy in 1998 and has continually called for a ban of "the harmful and discriminatory practice."
Besides the lack of a scientific basis for conversion therapy, research has shown that it can be devastating to a person's mental health. A study of over 27,000 transgender adults, reported on by Newsweek in September, found that conversion therapy is linked with a higher likelihood of attempting suicide.
"The AMA agrees with medical experts that the lack of regulation on conversion therapy opens the door to fraud, harm and trauma for many adults and children in the U.S.," the organization's statement read.
According to the Map Advancement Project, 18 states and the District of Columbia have officially banned conversion therapy. The states are Hawaii, all of New England's states, most of the mid-Atlantic states and the three contiguous states along the Pacific Coast.
While conversion therapy remains legal in most states, there are movements across the country to officially ban the practice, particularly at the city level. The governments of such cities as Tallahassee, Florida, and Minneapolis have recently considered legislation that would restrict or outright ban conversion therapy.
In August, North Carolina's Democratic governor signed an executive order preventing the state's Department of Health and Human Services from using state and federal funds to provide conversion therapy to people under 18, CNN reported. The governor of Puerto Rico signed a similar executive order in March, according to The New York Times.
AMA made its announcement at its annual Interim Meeting of its House of Delegates, held this year in San Diego.