A Georgia state representative is proposing a bill that would make it a felony for medical professionals to assist a transgender minor with transitioning.
State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) proposed the bill, which is still being drafted, in response to a story out of Texas involving a 7-year-old child at the center of a bitter custody battle that has been shared widely on conservative media in recent weeks. The mother claims the child identifies as a girl, but the father says the child acts like a boy when in his care and accuses his ex-wife of forcing the child to transition.
Last week, a judge ruled that the parents would continue to make joint decisions about the child’s care.
In proposing the bill, Ehrhart echoed talking points that have become common for anti-transgender activists, expressing worry about children being subjected to “irreversible” procedures that carry health risks and preventing their ability to have children in the future.
Such talking points are based on the belief that children who experience gender dysphoria may only be temporarily affected and will one day grow to regret their actions.
Under current law, a parent must consent to surgery or for a minor to be prescribed medication like puberty blockers or hormones.
Ehrhart says her proposed bill would charge medical providers who administer or prescribe medications that assist in gender transition to children would be charged with a felony. There would be no penalty for doctors who work with adults to achieve a gender transition.
Specifically, Ehrhart hopes to include provisions banning minors from receiving mastectomies, vasectomies, or other operations on the genitals that are part of a gender confirmation surgery — or, in her words, “the removal of otherwise healthy or non-diseased body parts” — as well as provisions banning hormones and puberty blockers.
From Ehrhart’s perspective, children just aren’t old enough to make serious and potentially life-altering decisions when it comes to their health.
“We’re talking about children that can’t get a tattoo or smoke a cigar or a cigarette in the state of Georgia but can be castrated and get sterilized,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She has also floated the idea of including penalties for parents who allow their child to undergo a gender transition.
In a press release, Ehrhart included quotes from an Atlanta-based pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Quentin Van Meter, the president of the American College of Pediatricians, a socially conservative advocacy group of health care professionals that regularly advocates for conversion therapy and against the right of same-sex couples to adopt.
The organization, which has been classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is often confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports gender-affirming care for transgender individuals.
According to Van Meter, Ehrhart’s bill is needed to protect children from “medical experimentation based on wishful social theory.”
“These children are suffering from a psychological condition without biologic basis,” Van Meter said in a statement. “Using the bludgeon of threatened suicide as justification is first of all cruel, and secondly, not supported by valid published studies.”
But other medical professionals, as well as LGBTQ advocates, argue that people do not seek a gender transition without careful consideration, and that the government should not be interfering in people’s private medical decisions when the procedures they seek are based in science.
Jeff Graham, the executive director of the LGBTQ rights organization Georgia Equality, blasted Ehrhart’s proposed bill as “shameful,” saying it’s part of a dangerous trend by conservatives to “demonize and strip transgender individuals of their humanity.”
“This legislation would criminalize decisions that are made carefully within families in consultation with medical professionals and mental health professionals,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “Supporting children in recognizing their gender identity is not only humane, it saves lives and strengthens families.”