Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature approves ban on gender-reassignment surgery for minors

Legislation joins dozens of GOP-backed bills nationwide targeting transgender young people

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 24 March 2022 21:23 GMT
Missouri legislator asks transgender teen if they will 'go through the procedure'

Arizona’s Republican-controlled state legislature has passed a measure to ban gender-affirming surgeries for people under 18 years old, joining a nationwide wave of legislation targeting LGBT+ young people and their families.

The bill passed the state House of Representatives on 24 March after passing the state Senate last month.

It now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The legislation – joining a dozen other Arizona bills that would impact transgender young people – has faced widespread condemnation from medical and LGBT+ advocates and physicians, arguing it will interrupt potentially life-saving care and “take away options from trans youth and their families, allowing legislators to impact decisions that should only be made with the support of medical professionals,” according to the ACLU of Arizona.

Legislators are also expected to pass another bill on Thursday banning transgender athletes from sports that match their gender.

Democratic State Rep Melody Hernandez, explaining her “no” vote on Thursday, reflected on legislative testimony from a 13-year-old transgender girl, “who was so excited” to have an opportunity to speak with Republican legislators and “maybe change a mind.”

“I’m so sad to see members voting for this legislation, after meeting that courageous young woman,” Rep Hernandez said.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Arizona director Bridget Sharpe said state legislators “trying to advance discriminatory bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth, and transgender youth in particular, show no shame.”

“Caught in the crosshairs of elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence,” she said in a statement.

Senate Bill 1138 is a “cruel and potentially life-threatening bill that would harm transgender youth who rely on gender-affirming services,” she said. “Medical decisions should be made between parents, children, and their medical care teams – not politicians.”

The bill was scaled back from its initial draft, which sought to ban hormone therapy and puberty-suppressing drugs, both of which are the most widely recommended gender-affirming care for transgender people.

At a committee hearing last month, Republican state Senator Tyler Pace broke from his party to exempt such treatment from the bill, saying “the testimonies we heard today about the many people who are using these avenues of medical treatments to save lives, to improve lives.”

A 2021 report from LGBT+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention group The Trevor Project found that LGBT+ young people are four times more likely to seriously consider, plan or attempt suicide than their peers, while LGBT+ young people between the ages of 13 and 24 attempt to kill themselves every 45 seconds within the US.

More than 320 bills impacted LGBT+ Americans are under consideration in state legislatures across the US, with roughly one-third of those bills directly targeting transgender people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Roughly half of those bills prohibit transgender youth from participating in school sports.

Two Republican governors, however, have recently vetoed legislation on their desks that would have effectively banned transgender athletes from playing.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox explained his veto in a letter Monday to his state’s legislative leadership, adding that only four transgender students participate in high school sports in the state, and only one transgender student participates in women’s sports.

“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” he wrote. “I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly.”

In his veto letter, Indiana Governor Eric Holbomb said his state’s bill “falls short.”

He also said he remains unconvinced by the bill’s supporters arguing that there exists an issue in school sports or a lack of fairness in women’s sports requiring government intervention.

“After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal,” he wrote.

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