The Republican-controlled state House of Representatives’ Public Health Committee approved a controversial bill Tuesday that would ban some gender-affirming care for transgender Georgia youths.
The bill would prohibit hospitals and doctors from providing hormone-replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries to transgender minors. However, It would allow some gender-related treatment for certain medical conditions and let transgender youths take puberty blockers.
The panel also approved an amendment to allow doctors to be held civilly and criminally liable for providing hormone-replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries to Georgians under 18 before approving the bill as amended in a 12-10 vote along party lines.
House Democrats argued the bill’s ban on gender-affirming care for under-18s would put Georgia law at odds with the recommendations of several major medical societies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Georgia chapter of the group also opposes the bill.
“Why do you think the judgment of the Georgia state legislature should supersede what the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined to be best practices in caring for gender diverse children?” Rep. Michelle Au, D-Johns Creek, a physician, asked Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, the bill’s sponsor.
“I can’t speak to that,” Summers responded. “Instead of having a surgery…before the age of 18 years old…I want to put a pause there. I don’t think any child should have irreversible surgery. … Our job here is to protect children.”
But others in the standing-room-only hearing pushed back against the claim the bill would protect children, noting that transgender youths are far more likely to think about and attempt suicide than other children.
“These life-saving treatments [are] the reason I am able to speak to you today,” 18-year-old Leonardo Hinnant told the committee, explaining that he began hormone-replacement therapy at age 13 and had a double mastectomy a few years later. “The reality of it is, if this bill passes, transgender kids will die.”
“These decisions are not made with haste, especially for minors,” Hinnant added, explaining that he underwent months of counseling and many doctors’ appointments before finally undergoing surgery.
“This decision is not easy,” committee Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, said in response to Hinnant’s testimony. “I only wish there was an accompanying bill – if this one should pass – that says that we will always also stand behind transgender people and transgender children and not let you be discriminated against.”
“The fact that the legislature is second guessing well-established standards of care is troubling,” Jeff Graham, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group Georgia Equality, told Capitol Beat after the standing-room-only hearing.
“All medical professionals and all parents should be extremely concerned about the message this sends — that the legislature knows better than parents working with medical providers to make decisions regarding their children.”
Some on the right – such as Frontline Policy Action, a Christian advocacy group — are opposed to the bill as well, arguing that it does not go far enough and includes too many exceptions.
The bill next moves to the House Rules Committee, where lawmakers will consider whether it should go before the full House for a floor vote. If passed in the House, the state Senate would then to vote on the bill again prior to the last day of the legislative session, March 29.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.