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Proposed Bill Would Punish Doctors Who Treat Trans Youth

south carolina

The bill is “state sponsored deadly violence,” according to an attorney with the ACLU.


A South Carolina Republican has filed a bill that would punish doctors for providing medical treatment to transgender patients.

House bill 4716 was filed Wednesday evening by state Representative Stewart Jones. Known as the "Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act," the bill imposes disciplinary measures for doctors who provide any form of health care that facilitates a patient's transition. That doesn't just include surgery, but also any treatment "to align the patient's appearance or physical body with the patient's gender identity," which might include recommendations about hair length and clothing, as well as "interventions to alleviate symptoms of clinically significant distress."

Jones has demonstrated in interviews that he lacks accurate knowledge on the topic. "Somebody under 18, they can't buy cigarettes and alcohol, and so they shouldn't be able to have a sex change," he told the Post and Courier. The term "sex change" has no clinical meaning.

"This is essentially state sponsored deadly violence against trans kids," wrote ACLU attorney Chase Strangio on Twitter of the announcement "This bill deliberately disregards clear science & medicine confirming that treating youth w/ gender dysphoria consistent with their affirmed gender saves their life. It tells providers to violate their oath. It tells trans kids they don't matter. And it tells me: see you in court."

Medical interventions for transgender youth generally consist of behavioral therapy, which the bill does not cover, and sometimes medication that can delay the onset of puberty without having any permanent physical effect on patients' bodies. Although conservatives often perpetuate a myth about "sex change" operations for youth, "big surgeries like phalloplasty (construction of a penis) and vaginoplasty (construction of a vagina) are not offered until patients have reached adulthood," according to Dr. Jack Turban, a physician specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents 67,000 doctors, issued a statement last year to recommend "providing youth with access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care."

Jones' transphobic bill is currently assigned to the House Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs.

It comes at a particularly dire time for transgender people in the south. At least four black trans women have been killed in the state since last year. A report by the Human Rights Campaign, released this week to coincide with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, notes that trans people living in the South are particularly susceptible to being the victims of violent crime.

Similar bills have been threatened in Texas, Kentucky, and Georgia.

Texas Representative Matt Krause said he would introduce a bill that would prevent doctors from treating minors with puberty blockers, despite such treatment being entirely safe and recommended by medical professionals. In Kentucky, Representative Savannah Maddox said she would introduce a similar bill. And in Georgia, Ginny Ehrhart said she would introduce a bill to "make it a felony to perform radical surgery on, or administer drugs to, a minor child for the purpose of attempting to change a minor's gender."

All of the lawmakers involved in these bills are Republicans.

RELATED | 157 Trans & Gender Nonconforming Americans Have Been Killed Since 2013

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Matt Baume