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S.C. Lawmaker Tries to Block Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

Protect Trans Kids sign

South Carolina Rep. Stewart Jones pre-filed a bill this week in the state legislature that would block anyone under 18 from obtaining gender-affirming care.

The “Youth Gender Reassignment Prevention Act” prohibits minors from accessing “gender reassignment medical treatment” in the state and blocks health care professionals from providing that treatment. Any professional who does so would face discipline, including possibly losing their medical license or certification. 

The bill appears to target gender-affirming treatment such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and puberty blockers, or what it calls “interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics.” 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care recommend pausing puberty for youth who have undergone a psychiatric assessment. The Food and Drug Administration has approved puberty blockers for decades for kids undergoing early puberty, Jack Turban, a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School, wrote for Vox last year. 

“These medications temporarily stop puberty from progressing, allowing the adolescent more time to explore and understand their gender identity,” Turban, who studies the mental health of trans youth, wrote. He noted that the intervention is not permanent and that the only significant side effect is bone density loss.

Jones's bill also targets “interventions to alleviate symptoms of clinically significant distress resulting from gender dysphoria, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.”

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Endocrine Society have all supported gender-affirming care for young people who need it.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry released a statement earlier this month condemning bills like Jones's, pointing out that denying trans kids such treatment can be disastrous for their mental health. 

“Blocking access to timely care has been shown to increase youths’ risk for suicidal ideation and other negative mental health outcomes,” the statement reads.

Jones, a Republican representing Greenwood and Laurens Counties, was elected in April 2019. His top campaign donors included the National Healthcare Corporation and the South Carolina Health Care Association, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics. 

Jones’s office did not return The Advocate’s request for comment by press time.

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