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LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Scotland’s Catholic Church says it is concerned about the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which will be debated on Oct. 27.

The proposed legislation would remove the current requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and reduce the requirement to have ‘lived in’ the ‘acquired’ gender for two years to three months. It also seeks to reduce the age at which someone can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate from 18 to 16 years.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the change in law is to make gender transitioning  “less degrading, intrusive and traumatic.”

“The Bill, which overrides biological reality, raises serious concerns about the safety, health and wellbeing of children and vulnerable people, and safe spaces for women and girls,” said a statement by the Catholic Parliamentary Office of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference.

“The Church is pastorally sensitive to the experience of those who, even at certain moments in life, desire to have a body and identity other than their biological gender and may begin to behave in ways culturally associated with this orientation. They are to be met with compassion and a particular care and support in the challenges and distress that come with gender dysphoria,” said a briefing paper composed by the Office.

The briefing paper emphasized that the Church in principle opposes the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows for people with gender dysphoria to acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate attesting to their gender identity, even if it is not the same as their biological sex.

“Affirming the objective foundation of sex and gender from long-standing human experience confirmed in the data of the natural sciences, the Church does not recognise a legitimate prerogative of the State to redefine in law what is male and female in a way that denies the biological reality of sexual difference. These are part of the natural law which expresses the unchanging principles of the human person in society,” the paper said.

The Catholic Parliamentary Office added that the government’s proposal will in effect introduce a system of self-identification, allowing a person to change their legal sex without the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria or having to see a doctor.

“Removing this requirement, and the important medical oversight that goes with it, will inevitably reduce the opportunity for crucial healthcare, support, and protection for vulnerable individuals, including children,” the paper said.

The Office also noted that lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16 and introducing a system of self-identification will put more children and young people on the path of irreversible elective interventions, including surgery.

“NHS England’s Gender Identity Service at the Tavistock clinic in London has been closed after an independent review found its affirmative approach to gender identity issues was ‘not safe.’ This included prescribing puberty blockers to children, despite a lack of clarity about the long-term effects of the drugs. Scotland’s equivalent clinic, the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, remains open, despite offering a similar affirmative approach to the Tavistock,” the paper continued.

Dr. David Bell, former staff governor at the Tavistock clinic, was reported in The Times as saying the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow should be “closed down immediately” and warned the Scottish Government’s stance on affirming gender transition was “likely to make it more difficult for them to see the damage that is being done to children by inappropriate, experimental treatment.”

Writing in same newspaper, Dr. Angus McKellar and Dr. Antony Latham, argued that more than 80 per cent of children with gender dysphoria who do not receive puberty blockers “will become comfortable in due course with their biological sex.”

The briefing paper also noted that many women’s organizations have recorded their own concern that the proposed reforms will increase risks to the safety of women and girls.

For Women Scotland, an advocacy group, already notes that Gender Recognition Certificates allow biological males into female-only spaces.

“Men who say they are women have already claimed it is their right to: Be treated on female hospital wards, access women’s refuges, join women’s sports teams, have sex-specific crimes such as rape recorded as if committed by a woman, be housed in female prisons, and provide intimate care and counselling to women who would prefer female carers,” the organization said in a submission to the Scottish Parliament.

For Women Scotland says the proposed change in law “will lead to at least a tenfold increase in GRC-holders – the majority of whom expect admittance into the spaces of the opposite sex.”

The Catholic Parliamentary Office briefing paper said the objection that a man self-declaring as female will have access to women-only spaces “is to be taken seriously.”

“The proposed reforms will allow a larger number of people to self-declare their gender, including those who do not have gender dysphoria, and increase the risk of bad-faith actors taking advantage of the proposed system,” the paper claimed.

Finally, the Office noted the Scottish government is “wildly out of step” with public opinion on the issue.

“An analysis of the Scottish Parliament Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee’s own short survey on the proposed Bill, which attracted 10,800 responses, shows significant public opposition to the Bill. 59 percent disagreed with the overall purpose of the Bill, while only 38 percent agreed. When invited to provide further comments on the Bill, 1,687 (26 percent) were in favor, while 4,768 (74 percent) were opposed to the Bill,” the briefing paper said.

“A recent poll commissioned by the Times and Sunday Times in October 2022 showed that sixty-two per cent opposed lowering the age at which a person can legally change their gender from 18 to 16. Moreover, only 26 per cent supported ending the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” it added.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome