Do women still exist, and do they matter? Has “women and children first” become “women and children last”?

There has been considerable disquiet across sports and the health service about the impact trans ideology is having on language, service provision, freedom of speech and on the rights of women and girls.

Following press reports that the GMC’s staff maternity and menopause policies referred only to parents and people (not mothers and women), I raised this in the House to be greeted by a Lordly chorus of approval, followed by a commitment by the Minister to meet the GMC (which he swiftly did). I met the GMC and discovered it allowed registered doctors to change their gender on the Register without a GRC and without any obligation to inform patients of their actual sex (important for intimate examinations but also for orthodox Jewish and Muslim women).

Meanwhile, as the NHS GIDS service was forced to close, we learnt from the CASS Report of Tavistock’s failure to keep proper statistics, or undertake long term follow up after medical intervention, and that its claim to be following “professional” guidelines was misleading as these so-called guidelines came from a non-medical group (WPATH) led by lawyers and activists with no peer-reviewed or scientific back-up.

When senior medics met in March at a Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender (CAN-SG) conference to review the scientific literature and international practice and outcomes, the RCGP sought to cancel the booking – which only went ahead after an intervention by myself plus warnings about the legality of such a cancellation. Even then, participants had to fight their way through a noisy, aggressive demonstration – complete with smoke bombs – just to have an expert workshop entitled “First Do No Harm” on diagnosis, treatment and follow up of youngsters facing gender issues. Its keynote speaker, Prof Riittakerttu Kaltiala (Chief Psychiatrist, Department of Adolescent Psychiatry, Tampere University Hospital, Finland), reviewing extensive literature as well as her evidence-based work, showed that most medical intervention showed little or no contribution to increased mental health (whilst having irreversible life-changing affects, some with serious side effects), and that many of the claims made by GIDS activists were completely unfounded.

The NHS has now said that puberty blockers should only very rarely be used, yet is permitting Gender Affirming Hormones for 16 year olds, a decision taken without consultation and contrary to the 2020 NICE 2020 Evidence Review which “found limited evidence for the effectiveness and safety of gender affirming hormones in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria, with all studies being uncontrolled, observational studies, and all outcomes of very low certainty. Any potential benefits of treatment must be weighed against the largely unknown long-term safety profile of these treatments”.

Meanwhile, another statutory body, the Care Quality Commission, approved the registration of the private “Gender Plus Healthcare” which runs a clinic prescribing cross-sex hormone treatment for 16 to 18year olds.

If science can be so blithely cast aside for children, what about adults? The NHS seems keen to erase women and their health needs. Whilst warning that “one in four black men will get prostate cancer”, it cannot bring itself to use the word “women” for its equivalent campaign, headlining leaflets as “people with ovaries can get ovarian cancer”. Not only is this inaccurate (women who’ve had their ovaries removed might be vulnerable as it affects fallopian tubes) but this confuses women for whom English is a second language and, most objectionably, denies women the curtesy of recognising it’s women who have ovaries! A reflection of NHS misogyny which erodes women, whilst risking some missing life-saving care if they fail to grasp the message is directed at them.

This is dangerous. Other actions are simply unfair – like letting born men compete in women’s sports. Yet Sport England seems unconcerned about the denial of fairness and opportunities to women, its website only regretting that the “opportunity to get involved in sport .. depends ..on your gender” – conveniently omitting the word “sex”. Meanwhile, it gave £5m to ParkRun without requiring stats to be recorded of the number of women (the most underrepresented group in sport) taking part to ensure the funds are used to boost female participation.

On the NHS, public scrutiny in the Lords helped make decision makers more accountable. My attempt to get a Lords Committee to look at sports was rejected, yet it’s vital we get every sport to confine women’s categories to women if a generation of girls is not to be denied a sporting future because they have to race against born men.

There is a small group of well organised activists for whom women and girls’ health and well-being rank lower than that of men. Decision makers in government, in sports, and in health need to remember we exist and will not be side-lined or silenced. Growing up I was reassured that it was “women and children first”. It now seems to be “women and children last”.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town is a current member of the House of Lords.