Doctors could face charges for providing care to transgender minors

Doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minor transgender patients could face civil or even criminal charges if Senate Bill 140 becomes law.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:40 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minor transgender patients could face civil or even criminal charges if Senate Bill 140 becomes law.

The legislation seeks to make surgery or hormone treatment for transgender youth illegal until the person turns eighteen and state senators are expected to take up the measure next week. The penalties are still unclear, but doctors who work with young transgender patients are concerned nonetheless.

“These decisions need to be left to the experts, the youth, and their families,” said Dr. Jason Schneider with Emory University. “This is an unnecessary intrusion into medical practice.”

Schneider has been providing hormone therapy to transgender patients for years and adds that surgical procedures on trans youth are extremely rare in Georgia.

“Surgical care is rarely if ever, offered to people under eighteen,” he said. “This prohibition on the use of hormones is what’s particularly damning.”

Providing testosterone, estrogen, or hormone blockers would also be illegal under SB 140. Those medications help a patient’s body physically align with their gender identity. Schneider says prior to providing any treatment to a younger patient, there’s always a thorough process that takes place between the parent, the patient, and the doctor.

“We’re not in the business of on-demand hormone prescribing,” Schneider said. “We are having deliberate, nuanced, individualized conversations with our patients.”

Schneider notes that if gender-affirming care is outlawed in Georgia, families may seek care elsewhere – either out of the state of on the dangerous black market, where hormone medications are more expensive and unregulated. They may also choose to leave the state altogether.

“I am very concerned about that,” he said. “I think that would just be awful to think about a whole family having to relocate for the welfare of a trans kid in the family.”

The bill would take effect on July 1 if passed and would grandfather minors already undergoing treatments. Schneider also worries that could lead to confusion and an influx of patients seeking immediate care just to make that deadline.

While the bill notes that “no large-scale studies have tracked people who received gender-related medical care as children to determine how many remained satisfied with their treatment as they aged and how many eventually regretted transitioning,” the bill’s champions have expressed worry that minors will eventually regret their treatment.

“Honestly it’s quite frustrating to see so much ignorance and misinformation,” said Schneider. “There’s a lot of solidarity right now in the provider community. We are committed to this population and being the voice of a community that is so disenfranchised.”

Atlanta News First reached out to bill sponsor Sen. Carden Summers, (R) – Cordele, to be put in touch with a transgender individual who regretted their decision to undergo treatment as a minor, but did not receive a reply.