Bill barring medical treatment of transgender minors in Georgia nears passage

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:50 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Thursday, a bill that would halt the ability of minors to receive gender-affirming care like reassignment surgery and hormone therapy, was sent to the Georgia Senate likely for final approval.

The Senate did not take the emended bill to a vote, but the measure likely has the support needed to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.

House Republicans made changes to SB140 before sending it back to its original chamber, namely an update that would make it a civil or even a criminal violation for doctors to perform such procedures.

The measure passed the House 96-75 entirely along party lines. Shortly after, Republican leaders argued that the legislation is a necessary step in keeping kids safe from what they said were irreversible medical treatments.

“It ensures that we can get in front of unintended consequences that we already have some evidence exists,” said Rep. Will Wade, (R) – Dawsonville. “I think this will give the medical community an opportunity to continue to research and come up with what’s going to be the best way to address this gender dysphoria issue while they’re children, and then let an adult make a decision on the long term.”

But parents of transgender children say this further alienates a sector of kids already experiencing disproportionate levels of mental health issues.

“The suicidality among trans youth it’s extremely high – much higher than their peers,” said Jen Slipakoff, whose 15-year-old daughter is transgender. “Statistics have shown that that number goes down dramatically when kids are able to receive gender affirming care, and we saw that in our own home.”

“Once we were sort of able to start affirming our daughter, she became a whole new person” Slipakoff continued. “She’s happy, she’s healthy, she’s thriving, in part because of what we’ve been able to offer her in terms of medical care.”

Slipakoff said she’s unaware of any doctors in Georgia that actually provide gender reassignment surgery and worries this is a culture war issue that’s causing unnecessary harm to families.

“There are no doctors in Georgia that will do bottom surgery. It’s not happening. There aren’t any, you will have to go out of state,” she said. “The damage that they’re doing by using their uninformed opinions to make legislation is frightening.”

Jeff Graham, the executive director of LGBTQ+ rights group Georgia Equality, called it a “sad day” for Georgia.

“To take away the rights of parents, to deny children potentially lifesaving medical care and to second guess medical standards and potentially criminalize the practice of medicine here in Georgia, it’s a very, very sad day,” he said, minutes after House lawmakers passed the bill.

Graham worries some families might now seek hormone therapies on the dangerous black market – something he says is already happening in other states that have passed similar laws. He’s also concerned that this legislation will lead to more laws diminishing the rights of transgender people.

“I have no reason to believe that this debate will end with the passage of this bill,” he said, “I believe it is just the beginning.”

In other states that have brought similar legislation, like Florida and Arkansas, lengthy court battles have ensued. Slipakoff expects that will be the case in Georgia too.

“I kind of wonder, why are we spending our time creating legislation that we know could be unconstitutional?” she said.