More than 200 people submit opponent testimony against bill to limit health care for LGBTQ youth

Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, reintroduced House Bill 68 in February after a previous bill that would ban doctors from performing sex reassignment surgery on minors failed to pass last year.

By: - May 25, 2023 5:00 am

COLUMBUS, OH — JUNE 18: Volunteers from U.S. Bank lay out the pride flag before for the 41st annual Stonewall Columbus Pride March, June 18, 2022, at the High Street, Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes. Republish photo only with original story.)

A handful of parents of transgender children spoke out against a controversial bill that would limit health care for LGBTQ+ youth.

They were among the more than 200 people who submitted opponent testimony against House Bill 68 — also known as the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act (SAFE Act) — Wednesday morning to the House Public Health Committee. Only a sliver of those who submitted testimony were able to testify during the three hour meeting due to time constraints.

Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, reintroduced House Bill 68 in February after a previous bill that would ban doctors from performing sex reassignment surgery on minors failed to pass last year.

The bill would prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, to trans youth. The bill would prohibit a physician from performing gender reassignment surgery on a minor, but many opponents noted that no Ohio children’s hospital currently performs gender-affirming surgery on those under 18.

“You are asking for a law that is not something that is done in Ohio,” state Rep. Anita Somani, D-Dublin, who is also a doctor, said during the committee meeting. “So why are we creating laws when physicians are trained to determine what is appropriate medical care, what is appropriate surgical care? Why are we creating laws in that space?

Click denies that his bill has religious motivations, but he can be heard defending conversion therapy and suggesting that homosexuality and someone being transgender are pushed by Satan during sermon of he gave four years ago at the Fremont Baptist Church, where he is a pastor. 

State Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Corrected misconceptions

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Chief of Staff and development pediatrician Patty Manning-Courtney corrected some misconceptions in her testimony by explaining that parental consent is required to gender-affirming care and only happens for children under 18 after mental health assessments. She said medicines that pause puberty are reversible and puberty resumes when those blockers are stopped.

This bill targets a “small, vulnerable, poorly understood group of children,” she said.

“Parents who are struggling with the most personal, complicated, and sensitive decisions regarding their children should not have to deal with legislative interference,” Manning-Courtney said.

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States.

Parents testify

Ann Becker’s shared with the committee a text message her transgender son sent her in March that read “Mommy I’m scared about the trans genocide. Are they gonna put me in a camp.”

Becker’s son just finished his second year of college at Case Western University and he started testosterone when he was 17. Because her son is older, the proposed bill would not affect her family, but said she is critical of how the bill “takes parents’ rights and turns them over to the state.”

“This cannot be the path that Ohio takes,” Becker said. “A path of fear, a path of denying freedom. Ohio is better than this.”

Rick Colby, a self-identified Republican, testified against the bill as his transgender son Ashton sat in the committee meeting.

“Completely banning all medical interventions for any individual under 18 with gender dysphoria is a horrendous idea,” Colby said. “It will most likely result in suicides, depression, and substance abuse.”

Giles Roblyer, the parent of a 12-year-old transgender child, shared his concern over HB 68.

“Pausing puberty is safe and reversible and leads to better mental health outcomes in kids like mine with persistent and consistent gender dysphoria instead of letting my child go through the irreversible changes of puberty, or in other words actively disaffirming his gender,” he said.

Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people attempted suicide in the past year, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 survey of mental health of LGBTQ youth.

The question of referral

The question of doctors referring minors to surgeons who would perform gender reassignment surgery led to some back-and-forth between Manning-Courtney, Public Health Committee Chair state Rep. Scott Lipps, R- Franklin, and state Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville.

“Do physicians who work in gender clinics refer patients to outside facilities where these types of surgeries are performed?” Stewart asked.

Manning-Courtney said no.

“Our practice is not to directly refer patients for surgery under the age of 18,” she said. “It is not happening to my knowledge. … A patient that seeks information about a wide-range of resources will receive information from our clinic providers that is appropriate for the care they are seeking, but we are not listing off or directing minors for surgery.”

“Do we say you can’t get that done here, but you could get it done there, has that happened in our clinics?” Manning-Courtney said. “It possibly has over time. We would not refer to that as a referral. That’s not saying ‘you go to this person, I’m directly sending documentation to this doctor.’ ”

Mental health

HB 68 would prohibit mental health professionals from diagnosing or treating anyone under 18 for a gender-related condition without first getting parental consent and screening for abuse and trauma.

This deeply concerns Manning-Courtney. 

“We are terrified of what this would do to mental health providers and we have already heard of people leaving the state already because of mental health provisions that are proposed in the bill,” she said. 

“Emergency room colleagues are partially concerned about this given the number of children they see presenting with mental health crises with gender issues and the reporting requirements this would place on them.”

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Megan Henry
Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the last five years reporting on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.