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Genital Exams Could Be Required Under Ohio Anti-Trans Sports Bill

Ohio legislators Jean Schmidt and Jena Powell
From left: Ohio legislators Jean Schmidt and Jena Powell

What's more, the legislation is being promoted as a "women's rights" measure by lawmakers with terrible records on women's rights.

Ohio lawmakers have advanced an extreme anti-transgender sports bill, which would require genital checks of athletes suspected of being trans females -- and it's being promoted as a matter of "women's rights" by some legislators who have truly terrible women's rights records.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed the measure close to midnight last Wednesday as an amendment to an unrelated bill, Cleveland TV station WEWS reports. It will not be considered in the Senate until it reconvenes in November.

The legislation, officially titled the Save Women's Sports Act, was tacked onto House Bill 151, which deals with residency requirements for Ohio teachers. It states that no "individuals of the male sex" will be allowed to participate on school sports teams designated for females.

"If a participant's sex is disputed," it continues, "the participant shall establish the participant's sex by presenting a signed physician's statement indicating the participant's sex based upon only the following: (1) The participant's internal and external reproductive anatomy; (2) The participant's normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; (3) An analysis of the participant's genetic makeup."

It applies to secondary schools, colleges, and universities, both public and private, according to WEWS. Schools and interscholastic organizations that violate it can be sued.

"Across our country, female athletes are currently losing championships, scholarship opportunities, medals, education and training opportunities, and more to discriminatory policies that allow biological males to compete in girls' sports," a sponsor, Republican Rep. Jena Powell, said on the House floor, WEWS reports.

Another sponsor, Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt, added, "I have fought my entire life for equal rights for women. This is equal rights for women." This is the same legislator who recently said a pregnancy that results from rape provide "an opportunity for that woman, no matter how young or old she is, to make a determination about what she's going to do to help that life be a productive human being."

Schmidt was also a co-sponsor of a "don't say gay" bill introduced in Ohio.

Opponents of the legislation say participation by trans girls and women isn't causing problems. While college swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman going to school in neighboring Pennsylvania, is winning championships, there is no widespread domination of female sports by trans athletes. Indeed, there is only one trans girl participating in high school sports in Ohio, and there never has been more than one in any year in the past seven, Equality Ohio and the Ohio High School Athletic Association pointed out.

The association requires trans female athletes to have undergone at least a year of hormone treatment before playing on a girls' team or to have demonstrated "no physical or physiological advantages," WEWS notes.

Democratic lawmakers also spoke up. "There are not scores of girls' dreams being crushed, there is one child trying to play on their high school sports team," Democratic Rep. Beth Liston said during the debate. "This is a made-up controversy, and this amendment is state-sanctioned bullying against one child." Liston, a physician, said the possibility of genital exams is the most "disturbing" part of the legislation.

Another Democrat, Rep. Rich Brown, added, "This is not a real problem. "This is a made-up, 'let's feed red meat to the base' issue."

Maria Bruno, legislative policy director for Equality Ohio, called the bill a "slap in the face to our entire community." She continued, "I know that there are a lot of folks in the LGBTQ community who are sitting there asking themselves, 'What did I do to them? Because they keep coming after me,' and I can't blame them for having that perspective. But the answer is nothing, just existing."

Opponents also brought up possible retaliation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which allows trans girls and women to play on female teams within certain parameters. The NCAA could refuse to hold tournaments in Ohio if the bill becomes law, and that would hurt the state's economy, legislators said.

A source told WEWS the Senate might not take up the legislation when it reconvenes. In addition, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has been less than enthusiastic about the measure, having said earlier he wanted the matter governed by athletic associations. However, he hasn't had a chance to evaluate the latest bill, an aide told the station.

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