ATLANTA (AP) — Most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone-replacement therapy for transgender people under the age of 18 would be banned in Georgia under a measure approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Doctors could still prescribe drugs to block puberty under the bill, which was approved in ’96-75. It’s part of a nationwide effort by conservatives to curb transgender athletes, gender-affirming grooming and drag shows.
The vote on Senate Bill 140 came after raw and emotional appeals from opponents in a debate that began with barely an hour’s warning and reflected a decision by Republican leaders to push through the measure quickly. Since a House committee amended the bill Tuesday to keep doctors who break the law open to lawsuits or possible criminal charges, it is returning to the Senate for further debate.
“To all the children in our state who will be adversely affected, please do not lose hope. Please don’t give up. Please don’t kill yourself,” said Rep. Karla Drenner, an Avondale Estates Democrat who became the first openly gay state legislator in the Deep South when she entered the House of Representatives in 2001, tearfully, citing fears of a higher suicide rate among transgender youth . “This world is worth it. We need them.”
Opponents said the measure would harm transgender children by forcing doctors to violate medical standards of care. They also said it would prevent parents from doing what they think is best for their children.
Republicans denied they wanted to harm anyone and said they have children’s best interests at heart and wanted people to have guidance. Proponents insisted the measure in Georgia would protect children from making irreversible choices before they are fully mature.
“As parents, our role is to help our children navigate the confusion of growing up in a society that is often over-sexualized and wants to put children in situations where they have to make adult decisions that they are not in the right to make location,” said Rep. Josh Bonner. a Fayetteville Republican who presented the bill.
Democrats questioned the lawmakers’ decision to override doctors’ recommendations.
“What patient would rather have their care dictated by a politician than a doctor?” said Rep. Michelle Au, a Democrat and a Johns Creek physician.
But Republican Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta physician, said it was appropriate for the state to curb “the uncontrolled expansion of early treatment for gender dysphoria.”
“Doctors sometimes require government involvement to do what is best to protect Georgians,” Newton said.
Rep. Will Wade, a Republican from Dawsonville, argued that it had become too easy for children to receive hormones or surgery and suggested that a willingness to offer such procedures would prove wrong in the long run.
“The notion that declaring a child’s gender identity should remove all obstacles to irreversible gender reassignment stems from extreme political orthodoxy rather than the best interest, the child’s long-term interests,” Wade said.
Wade, who carries bills for Gov. Brian Kemp as parliamentary group leader, told reporters the Republican gave Wade the green light to speak for the bill, reflecting Kemp’s “history of supporting and protecting children in this state.”
Wade initially predicted that Kemp would sign the bill, but later retracted that statement. A spokesman for Kemp declined to comment.
Democrats said Republicans would be serving GOP voters and trying to protect themselves from the challenges of the primary.
“Know that you’re passing this legislation out of your political self-interest to anger your base,” said Democratic Whip Sam Park of Lawrenceville. “Make no mistake about that calculation.”
Judges have temporarily blocked legislation restricting the treatment of transgender youth in Arkansas and Alabama, and opponents suggested Thursday that such a law would be found unconstitutional by federal and state courts in Georgia.
Governors in Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota have signed similar bills.
Advocates say transgender youth can then decide to take further action after they reach adulthood. But opponents say such a forced break is harmful.
Some conservative groups are pushing for tougher restrictions, including bans on puberty blockers and criminal penalties for doctors who break the law.
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