Metro Weekly

Florida Republican wants to jail doctors who prescribe gender-affirming healthcare to trans youth

Doctors who prescribe hormones and puberty blockers or perform surgeries on trans youth could face up to a year in jail.

Photo: Florida State Capitol. Credit: Stuart Seeger/flickr

A Florida Republican lawmaker who’s mounting a run for Congress has filed legislation that would prosecute doctors who prescribe gender-affirming treatments to transgender children.

The bill, introduced by State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Howey-in-the-Hills), would impose criminal penalties on any medical provider who performs transition-related surgical procedures on minors, as well as those who prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to transgender individuals under age 18.

Those providers found to violate the law would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning they could face up to a year in prison or a fine of $1,000.

The only exception the bill contains is if a person is born intersex, in which case parents can seek out surgery for their child — although such surgeries disregard the child’s own agency for the parents’ personal preferences, and can sometimes lead to gender dysphoria later if the sex “chosen” by the parents does not match an individual’s gender identity.

Sabatini previously introduced a similar bill during the regular legislative session, but the bill never received a committee hearing — ostensibly because of Sabatini’s rocky relationship with his fellow Republicans, and not out of any misgivings on the part of GOP lawmakers about intervening in personal medical decisions, according to the Florida Politics website.

Sabatini told the website that he refiled the legislation after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) promised, in an interview with the Daily Caller in June, to support any bill that would ban gender-affirming surgeries for transgender children. DeSantis also signed a bill earlier this year to bar transgender youth from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Sabatini, who is running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) — whose district is expected to be gerrymandered in order to favor Republicans — appears to be using the bill to shore up his conservative credentials. Many conservatives, not only in Florida but across the country, claim that transition-related treatments — including rarely-performed surgical interventions — are irreversible, harmful, and akin to sterilization or disfigurement. Thus far, only Arkansas and Tennessee have passed laws barring gender-affirming treatments for minors, although similar bills have been introduced in nearly two dozen other states.

See also: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott claims gender-affirming surgeries for minors are “child abuse”

“This has always been the right thing to do; it should’ve been passed years ago. This is a bipartisan-common sense bill,” Sabatini told Orlando CBS affiliate WKMG-TV, adding: “I’m against the forced castration and sterilization of children—anyone who disagrees with that is mentally insane.”

Heather Wilkie, the executive director of the Zebra Coalition, a nonprofit serving LGBTQ youth, said there needs to be more education for the general population to understand the nuances of gender-affirming surgery, especially since intersex individuals can also identify as transgender or nonbinary.

“It’s a complete double-standard. He’s trying to pick and choose who can receive gender-affirming surgery,” Wilkie said of Sabatini’s bill. “It’s more complex than saying, ‘This population can get surgery, but this population can’t.”

Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), an LGBTQ ally, told WKMG that opponents of the bill should view it as a serious threat that has a good chance of passing and being signed into law during next year’s legislative session.

“It’s disgusting; it’s a slap in the face to trans kids and parents. What’s so arrogant is that it’s supposed to be about trans kids’ safety, but it gets in the way of doctors and parents who want best for their kids,” Eskamani said of Sabtaini. “He’s saying he doesn’t want parents or kids to make these decisions, but it’s OK for a politician to decide?”

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