Ohio Bill Would Criminalize Doctors for Treating Transgender Youth

Troubled youth

One day after South Dakota killed a bill that would criminalize doctors who provide gender-transition procedures to minors, Ohio lawmakers say they’ll introduce similar legislation.

Two Republican state representatives in Ohio, Ron Hood and Bill Dean, unveiled their bill at a press conference Tuesday and said they’ll introduce it soon, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

Under the so-called Protect Vulnerable Children Act, “physicians could be charged with a third-degree felony for attempting therapeutic or surgical procedures intended to alter the gender of someone under age 18,” the paper reports. Parents could also sue doctors who provide such treatment to their children.

“My number one concern, by far and away, is the irreversible nature of these procedures,” Hood said. “These procedures, most of them, lead to sterilization. And these things are not reversible.”

Medical experts pointed out that genital surgery is not performed on people under 18, although some minors undergo chest surgery. Doctors often prescribe puberty blockers for transgender youth, and their effect is reversible. Also, young trans people who don’t receive supportive medical treatment have a higher rate of suicidal thoughts.

Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist and medical director of behavioral health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s THRIVE Gender Development Program in Columbus, pointed out the good that such treatment does. “It’s a double standard to completely withhold a form of known beneficial medical interventions for this population when we provide medical interventions and treatment for youth for other medical conditions,” he told the Enquirer. Supporters of the bill are engaging in “fearmongering tactics,” he added.

The conservative Christian group Citizens for Community Values brought in relatives of trans people plus a doctor to testify in favor of the legislation Tuesday. The doctor, pediatrician John Wells Logan, said children are “being coerced by medical providers who’ve been influenced by the political climate to make decisions that can be life-altering.” But he admitted he had never treated a patient with gender identity issues.

The South Dakota bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives in January, was rejected by a state Senate committee Monday. Similar legislation in Florida appears unlikely to advance. But bills banning the provision of gender-transition procedures to youth — some of which criminalize doctors — are pending in several other states, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. One is expected to be introduced in Georgia.

Grant Stancliff, communications director for LGBTQ group Equality Ohio, said the mere introduction of the state’s bill will harm young trans people. “Trans kids are going to hear this debate,” he told the Enquirer. “They’re going to hear people say they are worthy of support and medical care like everyone else and they’re going to hear people say they’re not.”

Jane Clementi, founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, issued a statement against the bill. “We are deeply concerned to hear that legislation is being introduced in Ohio that seeks to limit the ability for trans individuals to seek the health care to which they deserve access,” said Clementi, whose gay son, Tyler, died by suicide after being spied on online. “Not only is it wrong for these elected officials to dictate and control the very personal journey that trans youth face, but it is incredibly harmful for them to hear their identities, which make them special and unique, discussed and codified as though something is wrong with them. The Protect Vulnerable Children Act is not about doing what it says; it’s about controlling trans bodies and sending a message than being transgender — and taking steps to transition — is wrong.

“As this legislation advances, young people in Ohio could hear political discourse on television, around the dinner table, and at school that framed them and their lived experience in language that can only be described as bullying. The mere public debate over whether trans youth deserve to live their identities is harmful. As a mother who lost her son to suicide after he was bullied for being gay, I know that what LGBTQ kids hear matters a great deal. I urge Ohio’s political leaders to ensure that they hear words that affirm them, their lived experience and their rights.”