According to proposed legislation that is presently making its way to the desk of Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, who has indicated his support for the bill, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents in the state would be prohibited.
On Thursday, members of the House of Representatives voted 77 to 16, with three Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in voting in favor of passing the bill.
Civil rights organizations have made it clear that they intend to file a lawsuit as soon as the bill is signed into law, which could set the stage for a protracted judicial conflict over the next few months.
Said House Majority Leader William Lamberth-
“These children do not need these medical procedures to be able to flourish as adults”
“They need mental health treatment. They need love and support, and many of them need to be able to grow up to become the individuals that they were intended to be.”
Even though such services have been available in the United States for more than a decade and are endorsed by major medical associations, state lawmakers across the United States have introduced legislation that attacks gender-affirming medical care for young people. This is despite the fact that such services have been available in the United States.
Similar bills have advanced in Nebraska, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota. A ban on the provision of medical care to transgender people was only recently passed into law by Utah’s Republican governor. In the meantime, the same federal judge who banned Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for kids is now contemplating whether or not to overturn the legislation on the grounds that it violates the constitution. A federal judge has also temporarily delayed the implementation of a similar prohibition in the state of Alabama.
State lawmakers all over the United States have introduced bills that would make it harder for young people to get gender-affirming medical care, even though these services have been available in the U.S. for more than a decade and are backed by major medical groups.
In Nebraska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, similar bills have made it further. The Republican governor of Utah recently signed into law a ban on medical care for transgender people. In the meantime, a federal judge who stopped Arkansas from banning gender-affirming care for minors is now thinking about whether or not to throw out the law because it is unconstitutional. A federal judge has also put a hold on a similar ban in Alabama for the time being.
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If the bill passes in Tennessee, doctors would not be able to give anyone under the age of 18 gender-affirming care, such as prescribing puberty blockers and hormones, and they could even be fined.
But the law lists exceptions, such as letting doctors do these medical services if the patient’s care started before July 1, 2023, which is when the ban is supposed to start. The bill then says that this care must end by March 31, 2024.
The bill then lets the attorney general look into health care providers who may have broken the law, which is punishable by a fine of $25,000.
“We have taken away a woman’s right to decide her health care and health outcomes, and now we’re going after children,” Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson said, referring to the state’s strict abortion ban that went into effect last year.
“If a doctor and a family think that these children will be healthier, more productive, and save their lives if they take hormone blockers, then that is a decision that should be made,” she said.
Since last year, when a video of a Nashville doctor saying that gender-affirming procedures make hospitals “huge amounts of money,” Tennessee has been at the center of the debate over medical care for transgender children.
Tennessee’s Republican leaders asked that Vanderbilt University Medical Center be looked into because of the video, but it’s not clear if anyone has done so yet. The private, non-profit hospital said it had only done a few gender-affirming surgeries on minors over the years, but it has stopped doing them while it reviews its policies.
Since its transgender clinic opened in 2018, Vanderbilt University Medical Center says it has given an average of five gender-affirming surgeries to children each year. All of them were over 16 and had permission from their parents, and none of them had genital work done.
But not every red state has done this with a lot of enthusiasm. This week, a bill in Wyoming got stuck in a legislative committee because people were worried that health insurers would break the law if they didn’t cover gender-changing procedures.
The state Senate had already passed the bill, but it failed 5 to 2 in a House committee after the insurance coverage ban was taken out. For it to work now, it would have to be brought back up on the floor of the state House before a Monday deadline. This is a hard thing to do. Even though Wyoming has one of the most Republican-led legislatures, culture war bills have never been popular there.
“It’s a bill that seeks to demonize, it’s a bill that already knows who its enemies are. And it’s not a bill that’s about solving a Wyoming problem,” Sara Burlingame, director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Wyoming Equality and a former state lawmaker herself, told the committee.
Also on Thursday, Republicans in Tennessee’s House moved forward with a bill that would severely limit where drag shows can be held. This month, the GOP-led Senate chamber passed a slightly different version. This means that lawmakers must work out the differences before it can go to Gov. Lee’s desk. The bill is expected to be signed by Lee, just like the gender-affirming medical care for young people bill.
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