A pair of Ohio lawmakers has co-sponsored a bill that would effectively ban medical providers from prescribing hormones, puberty blockers, or other types of gender-affirming care to transgender minors, and would threaten them with disciplinary measures or the loss of their license to practice if they do.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) and Bill Dean (R-Xenia), recommends a jail sentence of up to one year for any medical provider that assists a minor in a gender transition, and allows any minor who has undergone a gender transition but later regrets it — or their family or guardian — to sue the provider for “injury, death, or loss to person or property” for a period of up to 20 years afterward.
The bill is supported by Citizens for Community Values, a socially conservative group that advocates for implementing Christian sexual morality in public policy, and has ties to the national anti-LGBTQ group Focus on the Family.
The bill's introduction makes Ohio the 11th state this year where legislation has been introduced to bar transgender and gender nonconforming youth from receiving treatments that affirm their gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
A similar bill introduced in South Dakota was recently defeated in a State Senate committee after having previously passed the House of Representatives.
Proponents of such bills often claim they are trying to protect youth from being subjected to treatments that will “sterilize” them (referring to gender confirmation surgery, which most doctors do not perform on youth, consistent with recommendations from major medical groups) or that will forever lock them into a gender identity that they may later regret.
“What we are concerned about here is that Ohio's most vulnerable children are being subjected to experimental, unproven and expensive treatments and surgeries,” Hood said during a press conference, according to CNN. “This bill is dealing with children under 18, who would be subjected to these procedures which are irreversible, and these decisions are obviously being made by children. The best suicide prevention is to cure and guide, not to sterilize.”
But LGBTQ advocates note that the effects of hormones and puberty blockers are reversible, and that most people who undergo a gender transition do so only after careful consideration and conferring with doctors that hormones or surgery is medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria.
They also note that a number of transgender minors often undergo therapy with licensed mental health practitioners to work out their feelings of gender dysphoria before and after receiving treatment, and do not make the decision to transition casually.
Furthermore, opponents of such bills note that gender-affirming care may actually be lifesaving for some youth, who would otherwise be driven to self-harm or suicide from being unable to live according to their gender identity.
Recently published research from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that providing puberty blockers to transgender youth actually reduces their risk of mental health problems, including depression.
The Human Rights Campaign circulated an open letter, signed onto by 1,800 parents of transgender or nonbinary children from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. condemning the 20 or so bills throughout the country, including Hood and Dean's, that seek to restrict access to transition-related health care.
In the letter, the parents say they are alarmed by the spate of anti-transgender legislation popping up in various lawmaking bodies this year calling such bills “misguided, misinformed, and mot importantly, mean-spirited.”
“There's a reason this legislation is opposed by medical experts like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics: it would limit critically important care that trans youth often do need, while spreading misinformation about the kind of care that trans children receive,” the letter reads.
“We know better than anyone what our children need in order to thrive: access to best practice, evidence-based gender affirming health care,” it continues. “Such care, administered by qualified professionals, is literally life-saving for our children. These health care decisions must be made on a case by case basis, in careful consultation with a medical team, and with the goal of reducing the physical and emotional distress experienced by many transgender children. They should not be made by politicians who think they know better than medical professionals.”
The coalition of parents also argue that the bills “are not about addressing an actual problem,” but rather an attempt to demonize the transgender community — and in some cases, even going so far as to label parents “child abusers” for pursuing gender-affirming care on their children's behalf — for political gain.
“The proponents of these dangerous bills are spreading misinformation that these parents — more than 1,500 of them — know to be blatantly false,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “A child’s health care needs should be a conversation had by that child, their family and a medical health provider, consistent with best practices. Lawmakers who want to disrupt that relationship show that they do not care about their constituents or American families, but would rather legislate hatred to rally a small minority of people who seek to harm transgender people.”
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