Georgia Senate bill bans some transgender care for youth
The Georgia Senate has passed a bill to bar some kinds of gender-affirming care in the state for anyone younger than 18, overriding impassioned pleas from a Democratic state senator who is the mother of a transgender son.
The 33-22 vote on Monday to pass Senate Bill 140, with all Republicans backing the measure, is part of a nationwide effort by conservatives to restrict transgender athletes, gender-affirming care and drag shows.
The bill, which advances to the House for more debate, would ban most gender-confirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for people under 18. However, unlike laws adopted in some other states, it would still allow doctors to prescribe medicines to block puberty.
“This is simply saying this is a pause and we’re asking that children be 18 years old before they make this decision that will alter their lives forever,” said Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican who sponsored the measure.
But opponents of the measure said that a blanket ban ignores the needs of individuals and sends a message that will lead to more transgender youth harming themselves.
“I didn’t choose this story,” said Sen. Sally Harrell, who talked to lawmakers about her transgender son. “But I did choose to be a mom. And when you choose to be a parent, the most important thing to do is to love your child.”
Opponents say the bill is an unconstitutional violation of equal protection because it would still allow some kinds of surgeries. Judges have temporarily blocked laws limiting the treatment of transgender youth in Arkansas and Alabama.
They also decry the state’s attempt to override what parents and physicians decide is best.
“Doctors and mental health professionals, they shouldn’t be in a hurry to treat with hormones and surgery, but banning them outright is not the answer either,” Harrell said.
Opponents also warned that transgender youth are already vulnerable to harming or killing themselves, and that the message the bill sends could make it worse
“If this bill passes, if this bill becomes a law, we know that this bill actually may be deadly,” said Sen. Kim Jackson, a Stone Mountain Democrat who is the first openly lesbian member of the state Senate. “I know there’s been some concerns about children having procedures that may be irreversible. But you know, the most irreversible thing is suicide.”
Some opponents had been pushing for harsher restrictions including bans on puberty blockers and criminal penalties. But Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican and physician, said leaving the drugs as an option and letting state boards discipline violators was a better option.
“We’ve adjusted and refined this bill until I think we’ve threaded the needle and we made a good bill,” Watson said.
Georgia lawmakers this year have also considered another bill authored by Summers that sought to stop teachers from talking to students about gender identity, although it stalled for the year after a Senate committee tabled it.
Last year, Gov. Brian Kemp pushed through a measure that cleared the way for the Georgia High School Association to ban transgender athletes from playing on the school sports teams matching their gender identity.