Bill to limit treatment for transgender youth passes Georgia House panel

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Republican from Cordele, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 140, which would ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to transgender minors. He said its purpose is to “make a pause” for transgender youth and make them wait until they turn 18 to take hormonal or surgical steps toward gender transition that he called 100% irreversible. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Republican from Cordele, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 140, which would ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to transgender minors. He said its purpose is to “make a pause” for transgender youth and make them wait until they turn 18 to take hormonal or surgical steps toward gender transition that he called 100% irreversible. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

A measure to prohibit medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment passed a House panel Tuesday on a party-line vote.

Senate Bill 140 passed the House Public Health Committee 12-10, with Republicans supporting the measure.

SB 140 would ban health care professionals from giving hormones such as estrogen or testosterone to transgender minors. Doctors also would not be allowed to perform surgeries on children seeking to align with their gender identity.

Children who don’t identify with their biological sex at a very young age may be prescribed hormone treatments that aim to delay puberty or stop it from progressing.

State Sen. Carden Summers, a Cordele Republican, told the packed committee room that the purpose of the bill is to “make a pause” for transgender youth and make them wait until they turn 18 to take hormonal or surgical steps toward gender transition.

“It’s also been proven that children who have gender dysphoria issues sort of outgrow them as they mature. ... They should get a little bit more mature before they make a decision that is 100% irreversible,” he said. “After (transgender children turn) 18 years old, whatever they decide to do is their business.”

Democrats on the House Public Health Committee opposed Senate Bill 140, citing the “best practices of care” for transgender youth outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports assisting children with their gender transition. “Why do you think the judgment of the Georgia state Legislature, and of you — 99% plus of which have no clinical training in pediatrics, whatsoever — should supersede what the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined to be the best practices for caring for gender-diverse children?” asked state Rep. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat and anesthesiologist. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Democratic lawmakers, all of whom opposed the bill, cited the “best practices of care” for transgender youth outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports assisting children with their gender transition.

“This developmental approach to gender affirmation is in contrast to the outdated approach in which a child’s gender diversity assertions are held as ‘possibly true until an arbitrary age often after pubertal onset, where they can be considered valid,’ ” said state Rep. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat and anesthesiologist.

“Why do you think the judgment of the Georgia state Legislature, and of you — 99% plus of which have no clinical training in pediatrics, whatsoever — should supersede what the American Academy of Pediatrics has determined to be the best practices for caring for gender-diverse children?”

Summers said it is the Legislature’s job to protect children.

“If you don’t think we’re protecting the child by keeping them from not having surgery before they’re 18 years old, then, I mean, with all due respect, you should vote ‘no,’ ” Summers said to Au.

Au and all other Democrats on the committee voted against the bill.

The bill includes an exception for the treatment of intersex children — those who are not born with the genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs of only one gender. There are allowances for physicians to treat children for nongender-related reasons, such as a sexual development disorder or an injury or infection.

It would also allow for minors to continue to receive hormone treatments if they began before July 1, when the bill, if signed into law, would take effect.

Dr. Toni Kim, a pediatric endocrinologist who said she was consulted by Republican lawmakers as they drafted the legislation, said she supported the bill because sometimes children are going through a phase and are “confused and are using this as what they think is the right solution when it’s not.”

Kim said she began working in the field in 2005 and has treated dozens of transgender children, prescribing puberty blocking medicine. But she said she has made it a policy in her practice not to prescribe hormone treatment to minors.

“Because of the nature of my practice, my stance has always been ‘I will support you through the reversible part of this transition, but if you’re ready to move on to something more than that,’ I have advised for patients to go to larger medical centers,” Kim said.

Critics of Senate Bill 140 say children struggling with their gender identities have higher rates of suicide attempts. “This bill would restrict essential care for transgender minors, care that is the reason that I know I am living today,” said Leonardo Hinnant, an 18-year-old transgender man from DeKalb County. “The reality is this — if this bill passes, transgender children will die. This bill would not protect children. It will do the opposite.” (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Critics of the bill say children with gender dysphoria have higher rates of suicide attempts.

Leonardo Hinnant, an 18-year-old transgender man from DeKalb County who is a freshman at Georgia State University, said he began taking hormone replacement therapy when he was 13 and had a double mastectomy when he was 15.

“This bill would restrict essential care for transgender minors, care that is the reason that I know I am living today,” he said. “The reality is this — if this bill passes, transgender children will die. This bill would not protect children. It will do the opposite.”

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