Mom goes undercover to investigate Planned Parenthood after daughter is prescribed testosterone

A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois.
A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018, in Chicago, Illinois. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

A mother, whose daughter was given a prescription for testosterone at Planned Parenthood, wanted to find out why it was so easy, so she went undercover. Within a half-hour visit, she was given a six-month prescription with few questions asked.

The 57-year-old mother, who's from the Tacoma area of Washington state and spoke with The Christian Post Monday on condition of anonymity, explained that after her troubled, trans-identifying 18-year-old daughter was prescribed testosterone by a Planned Parenthood nurse practitioner last month, she wanted to find out what the requirements were to purchase it.

She found out about her daughter acquiring the hormone after the pharmacy texted her to let her know she had a prescription ready to pick up. Hours later, she found out the prescription — testosterone and syringes — had already been picked up. When she confronted her daughter about it, she refused to tell her who had prescribed it.

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"I was pretty sure her doctors wouldn't do this given her mental health and physical health challenges and her mild learning disability," the mother told CP.

She'd heard that Planned Parenthood was now a provider of cross-sex hormones for transgender-identifying people and discovered that, unbeknownst to her, there was an affiliate office a few miles away from her home. So she called the clinic, pretending to be interested in testosterone, and was offered dates for an appointment and informed that if she had insurance it would cover the $160 appointment fee. The Planned Parenthood staff also instructed her on which bus routes to take and knew the cost of the fare to get to the clinic.

"My daughter never even made her own doctor appointments and never rode the bus. Now I see why she did it. She was encouraged by Planned Parenthood," the mother said.

After her daughter refused to listen to her concerns about the harmful side effects and risks associated with injecting herself with testosterone, she wanted to find out what Planned Parenthood clinicians tell their clients. She also wanted to know if they perform any mental health screenings or medical tests before they prescribe cross-sex hormones to gender dysphoric clients.

In mid-June, the mother went undercover to investigate her local Planned Parenthood clinic, where she presented as trans and told the office staff she intended to transition. They asked for her real name so they could file the insurance claim, so she provided her name along with a trans male name she made up.

According to the mother, she was asked to provide a urine sample, and the first person she saw in the examination room pricked her finger to draw blood to check her red blood cell count. When she asked questions about the risks of going on testosterone, she was given an informed consent document to sign. After the first Planned Parenthood staffer left, a nurse practitioner entered the room and asked how long she had thought about becoming a man.

"I didn't think it mattered how long I'd thought about it, so I told her that after seeing and hearing about Caitlyn Jenner I thought: why not give it a try?" the mother explained to CP.

Planned Parenthood's informed consent document for "masculinizing hormone therapy," which she shared with CP, lists potential changes to the body that "will probably not go away even if you stop taking testosterone," including a bigger clitoris, a lower voice, a mustache and beard, male pattern baldness, and thicker body hair.

Under the heading "How long does it take to work?" the document reads: "It can take a month or longer. Some of the changes can take 2 to 5 years. No one can tell how fast — or how much — change will happen."

"You will need to take the medicine forever to keep some of the changes to your body," the form states, noting that changes to body fat, strength, speed of hair growth, and sex drive are likely to change if users stop taking it.

"If you have sex with a person who makes sperm, you need to use birth control to prevent pregnancy, just in case," the document additionally advises.

The mother told CP that the nurse practitioner informed her of nothing more than what was listed on the informed consent form and subsequently wrote a prescription for injectable testosterone without first testing her hormone levels. The prescription, which was shared with CP, was for 100 milligrams of testosterone per week. 

By signing the informed consent document, clients assume responsibility for the risks of taking hormone injections and Planned Parenthood is not considered legally liable for any harmful effects. 

Planned Parenthood staff reportedly told the mother that they wanted her to return for a follow-up visit where they would teach her how to inject testosterone into her belly. When she told them she didn't like needles, they told her injections were the most effective way to administer the hormones. 

The mother told CP that she was prescribed the same dose as her daughter.

"This whole thing is maddening, and I don't know what can be done about it," she said, noting that she's written to five different organizations to alert them about what Planned Parenthood is doing.

The only group that responded was the pro-life investigative group Live Action, which referred her to some attorneys. Because of the ease with which she was able to obtain it, she believes her daughter likely thinks that medical professionals are on board and that she's being prescribed medication that will help her. 

CP called the regional Planned Parenthood in the Pacific Northwest, which covers Washington state, and presented as a prospective client to ask about transgender services and prescriptions for hormones.

The Planned Parenthood staffer confirmed that individuals seeking gender-transition must be 18 or older, and said the cost of a 90-minute appointment to start hormones would be around $350. She also said a payment plan could be set up, and they would help fill out an application for Medicaid, which would pay for the appointment and ongoing expense of the hormones. 

No formal referral from a therapist or psychological assessment is required, the Planned Parenthood employee told CP, though clinicians would review medical, sexual, and mental health history during the appointment. Expectations about what one can achieve by gender-transitioning would also be discussed, she said, adding that referrals for surgery could be sent out if needed. Blood work and checking hormone levels would also be done, and ongoing follow-up appointments would be scheduled.

CP also asked about the side effects of hormones, given scientific literature showing that the prefrontal cortex of the brain isn't fully developed until age 25. The Planned Parenthood representative said it sounded like "smoke coming out of nowhere," and brain development was inconsequential to starting gender transition hormones.

The mother who reached out to CP also spoke on air with two separate medically-oriented radio programs to ask the hosts, who were doctors, about these medical practices. One of the hosts was a neurologist and she wanted to learn more about the effects of testosterone on the female brain. Doctors on both radio programs expressed concern that such a high dose of testosterone was being given to a young woman with such poor screening. The mother shared the recordings of both radio programs with CP.

When the mother informed her daughter's therapist about the testosterone prescription, the therapist, who's a Christian, was shocked.

"I feel like no one is listening. No one will help me," the mother said. "I feel like I'm losing my daughter. It's like a death.

"I can't call her my daughter. I can't call her by her old name. It's like she doesn't exist." 

Though strained, she is doing her best to maintain a relationship with her daughter. One of the side effects of testosterone is the loss of empathy. Her daughter recently told her that she would soon move out and that she no longer loved her. 

Her daughter has been on testosterone for eight weeks.

In 2015, the FDA released a safety announcement that warned: "Prescription testosterone products are approved only for men who have low testosterone levels caused by certain medical conditions. The benefit and safety of these medications have not been established for the treatment of low testosterone levels due to aging, even if a man’s symptoms seem related to low testosterone."

"FDA has concluded that there is a possible increased cardiovascular risk associated with testosterone use. ... Some studies reported an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or death associated with testosterone treatment, while others did not."

The federal agency requires manufacturers of approved testosterone products to conduct clinical trials to address whether increased risk of heart attack or stroke exists among users of these products.

"I've started therapy too. It's super hard," the mother said.

"What really kills me is her voice changing," she lamented, adding that she recently asked her daughter if she could record her voice before it deepened significantly.

The deepening of the voice due to how testosterone thickens the vocal cords is a permanent effect of the hormone.

"She just started laughing at me," the mother said, "and I started crying about it and she thought it was funny. She just doesn't get it. And I don't think she's capable [of understanding] because of her developmental delay, her learning disorder.

"She's been through a lot in her life and she thinks this testosterone is going to solve it."

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