Mar 14, 2023 - Politics

Ban on certain transgender treatment for Georgia minors marches on

The sponsor of SB 140, State Sen. Carden Summers, presents his bill to a packed committee room Tuesday. Some attendees were sent to an overflow room. Photo: Emma Hurt/Axios

A bill to prohibit medical professionals from administering "irreversible" gender-affirming care to minors passed a state House committee on party lines Tuesday, prompting tears from transgender rights activists in the room.

Why it matters: The bill, SB 140, bans hormone therapy and transition-related surgery, which major medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics consider medically necessary and potentially lifesaving for transgender youth.

  • It is one of more than 100 anti-trans health care bills introduced by Republicans in state legislatures this year, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

What they're saying: "If this bill passes, transgender kids will die," testified Leonardo Hinnant, a freshman college student from Georgia.

  • "Every single representative who votes yes on this bill will have the blood of the children of this state on their hands," Hinnant declared.

Zoom in: Nearly one in five transgender minors attempted suicide in the past year, according to a 2022 survey by the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention services.

  • 71% of LGBTQ youth — including 86% of trans and/or nonbinary youth — said the debate around state laws "restricting the rights of LGBTQ young people" has negatively impacted their mental health.

The other side: The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Carden Summers (R-Cordele), told Axios he doesn't think suicides will increase among transgender minors as a result of the bill. "I don't believe that. But you know, I hope and pray that's not the case," he said.

  • Summers told Axios the bill is a compromise compared to what conservative advocacy groups have pushed for, including a complete ban on transgender health care.
  • "We're giving [minors] a chance to make a decision based upon growing up, in maturity," he said. "And if parents are sitting here saying my children at 14 years old may or may not need surgery, that parent may need to see someone too before they just make that decision for their child that's completely irreversible."

The big picture: The bill follows a recent trend within Georgia. Last year Republicans passed a bill that paved the way to ban transgender youth from participating in sports aligning with their gender identity — with support from Gov. Brian Kemp.

  • Summers, who told Axios he knows transgender people, said this is not part of any broader discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
  • "I've got great gay friends. That is not the issue, no ma'am. This issue is simply one thing and one thing only: giving children a good pause."

Elizabeth Wagner of Berkeley Lake, Ga. has a 17-year-old transgender child and has been lobbying against the bill. She said she first urged her 12-year-old to "wait and see" before pursuing gender-affirming care, after which she only saw her son's mental health worsen.

  • Through tears following the bill's vote, Wagner told Axios she feels "betrayed" because the bill implies "parents are not good enough to decide the health care for their children."
  • She said "it's fear of the unknown" that's pushing these restrictions nationwide targeting transgender kids. "But the fact of the matter is, that depression, that anxiety comes because of their gender identity struggle when it's not affirmed."

What's next: The bill is now eligible to be scheduled before the full state House.

  • Because of an amendment in the House committee the state Senate will then have to vote on it again.

Go deeper: Gender-affirming care in the U.S.

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