A new bill filed ahead of next year’s legislative session in South Carolina would ban minors from receiving any type of medical treatment that seeks to aid in a gender transition.
The bill, titled “The Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act,” would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from undergoing gender confirmation surgery, but would also prohibit them from using hormones and puberty blockers, or receiving any type of treatment that would assist them in aligning their physical appearance to match their gender identity.
Doctors found guilty of violating the law — even if such treatments were recommended to treat a patient’s gender dysphoria — would be subject to punishment and would have to appear before the state Board of Medical Examiners, which could suspend or completely revoke a doctor’s license to practice.
The ban does not apply to mental health counseling that transgender youth may seek out to help with their feelings of gender dysphoria.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Stewart Jones (R-Laurens) told the Post and Courier that he proposed the measure in response to an ongoing Texas custody case that has riled up anti-trans activists and been covered incessantly by conservative media.
In the Texas case, the father wishes his 7-year-old child to present and live as a cisgender boy, while the mother insists that her child is a transgender girl and wishes to allow her child to transition.
The case has inspired similar legislation not only in the Lone Star State, but others, including Alaska, Illinois, and Kentucky.
A Georgia state representative recently floated a similar proposal for a bill she’s working on that would punish doctors or parents who assist a minor in transitioning, although the Georgia House Speaker has expressed skepticism about spending time on bills dealing with volatile social issues.
Jones, who claims the intent of his bill is to protect children from being “pressured or bullied” into having their gender reassigned, insists he is not looking to bar transition-related treatments for adults.
“For a child, it’s a whole different matter,” he told the Post and Courier. “Somebody under 18, they can’t buy cigarettes and alcohol, and so they shouldn’t be able to have a sex change.”
But Chase Glenn, the executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance in Charleston, says the bill could have “disastrous implications” for transgender youth, who experience higher rates of suicidal ideation, with more than half contemplating suicide at some point, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The LGBTQ group SC Equality issued a statement denouncing the bill and urged supporters to write their lawmakers to oppose its passage.
SC Equality noted in its statement that treatments for gender dysphoria vary by age and are not one-size-fits-all, as some transgender people never undergo gender confirmation surgery, even as adults.
“Before puberty, they typically perform no medical interventions at all. Rather, most major medical associations recommend the ‘affirming method’ for young children who may be trans, allowing them to experiment with different pronouns or gender presentations as they wish,” the statement reads.
“The South Carolina bill would appear to ban both puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. And because it bans interventions ‘to alleviate symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria,’ it could ban the affirming method as well, preventing doctors from, for example, recommending that parents allow a child to dress or wear their hair in a way consistent with their gender identity.
“The bill has an exception allowing ‘behavioral health care services, such as mental health counseling’ for gender dysphoria,” SC Equality continued. “However, the language of the bill is so wide-ranging that it could even ban medication for depression or other mental health conditions associated with dysphoria. And overall, the ban could be very dangerous for trans young people, who are already at high risk of attempting suicide. The bill is essentially state-sponsored deadly violence against trans kids and it must be defeated.”