West Virginia has joined the list of states advancing bans on gender-affirming health care for minors.
The state’s House of Delegates Friday passed a bill that would ban both hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery for people under 18, TV station WDTV reports. (It should be noted that genital surgery is hardly ever performed on minors.) The hormone ban was added to the bill in committee this week, and the final vote by the House of Delegates was 84-10. The measure now goes to the Senate.
The vote came a day after dozens of trans people and allies spoke against the bill. “Eighty speakers in all stepped to the podium — each given one minute to speak, and every speaker, except two, urged lawmakers to reject the proposal,” WDTV notes.
Speakers pointed out the high rate of suicide among transgender youth and the fact that the risk of suicide is greater if these youth do not receive support. The state has the most trans youth per capita of any in the nation.
Those who testified against it included the Rev. Jenny Williams, a United Methodist minister, who said legislators should show as much concern for trans youth as they did for the unborn in banning abortion.
“You all like to use rhetoric about not killing children as a justification for passing legislation, as you did this summer. You will kill children if you pass this,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “If you oppose the killing of children like you say you do, I would hope that you apply your principles consistently.”
Paula Lepp, the mother of a trans child, said, “The bottom line is this: I would rather have a live daughter than a dead son, and this bill puts that at risk.”
LGBTQ+ rights groups denounced the House’s passage of the bill. “Our community has spent weeks begging lawmakers to listen to us when we say this care is safe, effective and lifesaving,” Isabella Cortez, gender policy manager for Fairness West Virginia, said in a press release. “It’s not an exaggeration when we say this bill, if it’s signed into law, will kill transgender youth. The lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill should be ashamed of themselves.”
“We knew from the very beginning that we would face an uphill battle to protect this lifesaving care, but the fight isn’t over,” added Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia. “This bill is masquerading as a way to protect kids, but in fact it actually puts them at risk. The real intent of this bill is to erase transgender people from the Mountain State, and we won’t let that happen.”
“Lawmakers in statehouses across the country are doubling down on attacks against transgender youth and embarking on a reckless disinformation campaign to justify harmful policies to prevent transgender children from being able to access age-appropriate, medically necessary, and scientifically supported care,” said a statement from Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel. “Denying transgender and nonbinary youth — an extremely vulnerable group already — access to best-practice care is dangerous, spiteful, and flies in the face of the recommendations of every major medical group in this country.”
Legislation to ban or restrict gender-affirming care for minors has been introduced in at least 21 other states this year, and one of them, Utah, has enacted it into law, with Gov. Spencer Cox signing a bill to this effect last weekend. Alabama and Arkansas had passed bans earlier, and both are blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed. Florida medical boards have prohibited this care in most cases, and a university hospital in Oklahoma has ceased providing the treatment to minors after the state passed a law to withhold funds. Bans are advancing in South Dakota and Mississippi, while such legislation has been quashed in Virginia.