The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Rachel Levine to a top post in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), making the doctor the first openly transgender person to get Senate confirmation.
Levine, previously Pennsylvania’s health secretary, will be assistant secretary for health in HHS.
All 50 Democrats, along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted for Levine’s nomination, despite concerns that the doctor has supported children to have genital surgery and puberty blockers.
During a recent confirmation hearing, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) noted that data from the American College of Pediatricians shows that 80 to 95 percent of children who believe they’re a gender different from their birth sex will see a dissolution of those feelings by late adolescence, provided they’re not exposed to medical intervention and social affirmation.
“American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones to prevent their biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics. Dr. Levine, you have supported both allowing minors to be given hormone blockers to prevent them from going through puberty as well as surgical reconstruction of a minor’s genitalia,” Paul, a doctor, said, before asking Levine, “Do you believe minors are capable of making such a life changing decision of changing one’s sex?”
Levine responded to that and another question by saying: “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed. If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed as the assistant secretary of health, I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office and discussing the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Other lawmakers said Levine shouldn’t have been nominated by President Joe Biden after mandating nursing homes accept COVID-19-positive patients.
“Biden’s nomination of former PA Sec. of Health Levine to serve at HHS is insulting to those who lost loved ones at senior living facilities – she moved her own mother OUT of a senior living facility after requiring them to admit COVID-19 patients,” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) wrote in a tweet last month.
But others said Levine has an established track record and will serve the nation well in the new role.
“The people in our government should reflect the people it serves. Today, we took a new, historic step toward making that a reality with the confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on Wednesday.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) called Levine “the kind of crisis-tested leader” that the United States needs at HHS during the pandemic.
When nominating Levine last year, Biden said the doctor “will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic—no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability—and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed a quote to Rep. Smucker. The Epoch Times regrets the error.