Az Senate panel rejects bill to ban medical care for trans youth


Gloria Gomez

Don Bolles Fellow, University of Arizona

Skyler Morrison was barely taller than the podium, but the 13-year-old’s voice was firm on Wednesday as she told state lawmakers how important it was that her doctor could treat her properly – ​which would be illegal if a change of state law they were considering was approved.

“This bill is a direct obstacle in my path to becoming comfortable in my own body,” she said.

Morrison was one of more than a dozen transgender children, parents and advocates who gathered in a Senate courtroom to plead with members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee not to pass a bill that they say would have devastating consequences. For Morrison, passing the bill would force her through male puberty, which she says would cause incalculable damage to her mental health.

In the end, a Republican senator joined Democrats in voting against the controversial proposal that sought to ban gender-affirming care for trans children in Arizona.

Senate Bill 1138
would have made it illegal for doctors to provide minors with puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, such as mammoplasty or face sculpting procedures. The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative Christian lobbying organization known for its anti-LGBT policies, helped draft the bill. A identical bill in the House
remains to be debated. Critics have said depriving trans youth of necessary medical care could exacerbate mental health issues and lead to an increased risk of suicide.

More than a dozen transgender children, parents and lawyers gathered in the courtroom to voice their disagreement.

Republican Senator Gilbert Warren Petersen, who sponsored the bill, said the intention was not to prevent people from transitioning, but rather to make children wait until they are 18 years so that they can independently choose this path. He said imposing an age threshold on permanent physical changes was no different from preventing minors from smoking or drinking, and that children should be excluded from decisions that could have dramatic consequences.

“This bill is about protecting our children from irreversible change,” he said.

Blocking trans youth from puberty blockers and hormone therapy could cause them to develop unwanted and irreparable physical changes like Adam’s apples and breasts, which would then need to be surgically removed.

Dr. Paul Hruz, an endocrinologist with no training in mental health research and no training or experience in treating gender dysphoria, condemned gender-affirming care as experimental and harmful.

“(Gender dysphoric children) have underlying psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders and need cognitive behavioral therapy to address the underlying comorbidity, and not subject to experiments,” he said.

Hruz has been linked to the Defending Freedom Alliancea Scottsdale-based Christian advocacy group that is notoriously anti-LGBTQ and has defended European laws requiring the sterilization of transgender individuals.

Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, compared genital reassignment surgery to female genital mutilation, prompting a quick rebuke from Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa.

“Female genital mutilation doesn’t go through a process with psychiatrists and parental consent forms,” ​​he said.

Senator Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, who has a history of proposing anti-trans legislationsaid one Swedish trans adult study
reportedly showed that suicide rates increased after gender confirmation surgery. In fact, the study itself cautioned that it was not claiming that surgeries were the cause of the increased suicide rates, but rather that treatment by itself was not enough to prevent suicide. among trans adults, given the social stigma they face. The study was widely misquoted by conservatives seeking to restrict transgender care.

Transgender teenager Daniel Trujillo has called on lawmakers to think about his future safety. His mother had previously spoken of the importance of being able to provide him with the care he needs after years of rejecting his unshakable belief that he is a boy. Trujillo noted that gender-affirming care is supported by all major medical associations and has been deemed crucial to ensuring the mental well-being of trans youth.

“Transition medical care is super personal, and government has no place in it,” he told the committee.

Townsend called herself a ‘big fan of parental rights’, but said she was concerned about children who could be forced into gender transition procedures by parents who misidentified their distress or who were actively trying to change gender. of their child out of personal preference. That’s why the government should revoke a parent’s right to make such drastic healthcare choices, she said.

But that’s just not true, said the Reverend Sandy Johnson. The process of accessing medical interventions like hormone therapy or puberty blockers is neither quick nor easy: her own daughter underwent six months of therapy before being allowed to take estrogen. And six months, she said, is more than enough time for a professional therapist to identify coercion.

Another parent, Christina Heeley, told the committee that her son was hospitalized twice before he began receiving gender-affirming care. She said it was among the only times she could relax because when he was home she worried he was going to kill himself.

“Don’t let children suffer because you don’t understand gender dysphoria,” she warned.

Marilyn Rodriguez, lobbyist for the Arizona Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said SB1138 was an excess of government power and likely violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Abigail Jensen, legal director of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, said that a similar law in Arkansas has been tied up in court
in a constitutional challenge. And in addition to constitutional issues, she noted that the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination in health care. Jensen, who is transgender herself, said restricting access to life-saving, gender-affirming care would be detrimental to children with gender dysphoria.

“The first dose of estrogen was the most effective antidepressant I’ve taken,” she said. “The only way to reduce the distress of trans people is to provide gender-affirming care. »

All three Democrats on the committee voted to kill the measure. They were joined by Pace, which led to a 4-4 deadlocked vote, killing Bill.

Pace said her time in the legislature and her meetings with transgender advocates changed her perspective on the issue. He acknowledged the many testimonials from parents and children and said that while he believes sex reassignment surgery is a choice that should be made by children once they reach adulthood, he disagreed with everything else in the bill.

“We heard testimonies of (gender-affirming care) saving lives. I don’t want my vote to stop these big things,” he said.

Gloria Gomez is a senior at the University of Arizona and a 2022 UA School of Journalism Don Bolles Fellow. The UA School of Journalism started the fellowship in 1977 to honor Don Bolles, a journalist from the Republic of Arizona killed in a car bombing in 1976.

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