A bill introduced earlier this month in Michigan could potentially sentence parents of transgender children to life in prison if they allow their child to obtain gender-affirming treatments for the purpose of helping them transition to a gender that does not match their assigned sex at birth.
House Bill 6454, introduced by a quintet of Republican lawmakers, would classify providing minors with gender-affirming care — ranging from puberty blockers to surgical interventions — as “first-degree child abuse,” which is punishable by life in prison.
Under the bill, any person in Michigan — whether a parent, guardian, or doctor — who “knowingly or intentionally causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child,” including assisting them in obtaining transition-related care, would be guilty of violating the law.
The bill’s chief co-sponsors claim that their bill is consistent, in that minors who can’t consent to other activities, such as drinking, driving, smoking, or voting, should not be allowed to make potentially “life-altering” medical decisions that they may grow to regret later in life.
“Michigan law says individuals cannot vote before the age of 18 because they don’t have the life experience or maturity necessary to make adult decisions, it says they cannot consume alcohol before they are 21 because it is dangerous to their development, it says they cannot drive until they are 16 because they aren’t responsible enough,” State Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) said in a statement to Grand Rapids-area ABC affiliate WZZM.
“We certainly shouldn’t allow minors to make life-altering and irreversible changes to their bodies, and adults shouldn’t be allowed to make the decision for them,” Meerman added. “What’s most important is the health and wellness of our youth, and we’ve seen evidence that these procedures on children can be detrimental to their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.”
In typical fashion, the bill — like all other Republican-proposed bans introduced in various state legislatures — does allow parents to force their children to submit to surgical interventions if they are born intersex or have chromosomal abnormalities in order to force the child to conform to one particular sex or another. But some human rights advocates say that such surgeries — often performed on infants — take away an individual’s bodily autonomy, may lead to gender dysphoria if parents choose the “wrong” sex before the child is able to express their gender identity, and may even be tantamount to torture.
However, even lawmakers in Democratic-led California have been reticent to ban surgeries on intersex children, primarily due to pressure from medical associations representing medical specialists.
Michigan State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) told The Hill that it is “logically incoherent” to provide gender-affirming treatments to youth who are not legally able to consent to sex, noting that the law currently prohibits them from purchasing cigarettes until they’re 21.
LaFave said that most Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives — where Republicans hold a narrow three-seat majority — and the Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 22-16 edge — will back the measure. He also said he believes most Michigan Democrats agree with the bill’s aims, but won’t speak out for fear of damaging their political careers.
If passed, Michigan would become the second state in the nation to make it a felony to provide gender-affirming treatments to minors. Alabama outlawed certain treatments, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, for minors as part of legislation signed by the governor in April, but that law has been partially blocked by a federal judge.
Two other states — Arkansas and Arizona — have passed laws banning gender-affirming care but do not classify providing such care as a felony. Arkansas’ law, which bans all gender-affirming treatments, has been blocked by a federal judge, whose injunction has subsequently been upheld by a federal appeals court. The lower court judge who blocked the law recently heard oral arguments over the law’s validity and constitutionality. Arizona’s law only bars minors from undergoing gender-affirming surgeries, which aligns with most transgender health experts’ recommendations that surgical interventions be delayed until adulthood.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has introduced a federal bill to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors that would result in doctors who prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to minors facing up to 25 years in prison. The bill has already garnered more than 40 co-sponsors, all Republicans.
LGBTQ advocates have argued that for some children, gender-affirming treatments like puberty blockers are medically necessary and can be lifesaving. They also say the bans infringe on parental rights and will intimidate doctors from providing the best possible care for transgender patients.
“I think that this bill is cruel,” Erin Knott, the executive director of Equality Michigan, told WZZM. “House Bill 6454 is acknowledged to be the most extremist, anti-trans bill introduced in any state legislature. … It sends another message to our LGBTQ kids, in particular trans and non-binary youth, that their lives don’t matter.”
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