by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thousands of pediatricians convened in Anaheim, Calif., in early October for the American Academy of Pediatrics’s (AAP) annual conference. The group, which boasts 67,000 members in the United States and around the world describes itself as “dedicated to the health of all children.”
So some audience members were shocked when Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, lauded a transgender teenager for committing suicide.
In an address about “standing up for gender-affirming care,” Ladinsky eulogized Leelah Alcorn, an Ohio 17-year-old who, in Ladinsky’s words, “stepped boldly in front of a tractor trailer, ending her life,” in 2014, after leaving a suicide note that “went viral, literally around the world.”
Ladinsky’s remarks were captured on video by a horrified onlooker, Oregon pediatrician Dr. Julia Mason, who expressed outrage on Twitter that Ladinsky was “glorifying suicide,” an act she described as “unprofessional and dangerous.”
That isn’t just Mason’s opinion. Technically speaking, it is also the official stance of the AAP, whose website for parents, healthychildren.org, explicitly warns that “glorifying suicide” can have a “‘contagious’ effect” and inspire others to take their own lives.
Reached for comment, Ladinsky expressed “regret” about her choice of words and said it was “never my intent” to glorify self-harm.
But how did this esteemed doctor wind up telling a group of physicians that a teen had, as she put it, “boldly ended her life?”
In any large organization, some members are bound to hold fringe views. But Ladinsky, who has devoted her career in part to facilitating the gender transition of teenagers including by challenging state laws that restrict the kinds of treatment physicians can provide to them, is hardly an outlier at the AAP. And the AAP is an organization that matters a great deal.