Georgia House approves bill to limit treatment for transgender children

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

The Georgia House on Thursday approved a bill that would prevent medical professionals from giving transgender children certain hormones or surgical treatment.

Senate Bill 140 passed 96-75 on a party-line vote, with Republicans supporting the measure. Since the bill was amended in a House committee earlier this week, SB 140 will go back to the Senate for its consideration.

Supporters of the measure say it protects children from taking steps toward gender transition that are permanent. Opponents say the bill goes against published “standards of care” and would end up hurting transgender children, who have a higher rate of suicide than their nontransgender peers.

Democratic lawmakers cited guidance from major scientific organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization that say medical and surgical care to transition genders is appropriate when properly administered. They encouraged lawmakers not to vote for a bill that goes against best medical practices.



State Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican and emergency physician, took issue with that, pointing to original guidance from medical organizations that encouraged the prescription of opioids, drugs that led to an epidemic of addiction and overdoses. Guidelines from what Newton called “well-meaning, well-intentioned doctors, pharmacists and scientists have since changed.”

“There were very serious, what we call unintended consequences, actually long-term devastating consequences. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have died related to accidental or intentional overdoses, addictions that may have started with the best intentions,” Newton said, implying that guidance could change concerning gender dysphoria — the distress that comes from feeling you’re one gender when you physically look like another. “The science is still in the early stages of understanding and grappling with the tremendous rise in reports of gender dysphoria.”

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.

Medical professionals would still be allowed to prescribe a hormone treatment that aims to delay puberty or stop it from progressing under the proposal. Children who don’t identify with their biological sex at a young age are often prescribed the puberty blockers.

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.

SB 140 would also allow minors to continue receiving hormone treatments if they began before July 1, when the bill, if signed into law, would take effect.

State Rep. Karla Drenner, an Avondale Estates Democrat who became the first openly gay state representative in the South after she won election in 2000, said she was disappointed that lawmakers were telling parents that getting transgender care for their children made them bad parents.

“To all the children in our state that are going to be negatively impacted, please don’t lose hope,” Drenner said, holding back tears. “Please don’t give up. Please don’t kill yourself. This world is worth it. We need you.”