Wyoming legislators have advanced a bill that would define the provision of gender-affirming care to minors as child abuse.
The Wyoming Senate approved Senate File 111 Thursday by a vote of 22-9, and it now goes to the House of Representatives, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. It would classify both hormone treatments and surgery as child abuse, even if the minor’s parent or guardian had consented to the procedure. Genital surgery is almost never performed on minors, although some undergo top surgery, and transgender minors often receive hormones and puberty blockers.
Health care providers testified before the Senate that genital surgery for minors is unknown in Wyoming, while they questioned why the state would seek to criminalize other procedures. “Refusing to provide the standard of care for these patients with gender dysphoria syndrome is really tantamount to requiring medical neglect for these patients,” pediatrician April Kranz told the Senate the previous week, according to the Star-Tribune.
Republican Sen. Charles Scott, the bill’s sponsor, has claimed that medical professionals are “preying on young adolescents” to persuade them to undergo gender-affirming treatment. Discussing the legislation Thursday, some lawmakers took issue with that.
“Is there a clear, convincing reason for the state to say that a parent, parents and children and medical professionals, can’t be in this space?” said Republican Sen. Cale Case. “It’s a difficult one. I know it’s difficult for you, but I think we’re being reactionary here. This actually doesn’t happen in Wyoming to any great extent, and we’re being fearful.”
Democratic Sen. Chris Rothfuss said the “child abuse” label will contribute to marginalization of trans youth. “This is the heart of the problem,” he said. “This is the reason why the transgender community feels isolated and feels as if they’re being targeted and has a suicide ideation rate which is well above the general public, because legislation like this says, ‘It’s a crime to have the desires that you have.’”
Nonetheless, the Senate approved the bill. Legislation to ban or restrict gender-affirming care for minors has been introduced in more than 20 states this year, and one of them, Utah, has enacted it into law, with Gov. Spencer Cox signing a bill to this effect. Alabama and Arkansas had passed bans earlier, and both are blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed. Florida medical boards have moved to prohibit 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 West Virginia,South Dakota, and Mississippi, while such legislation has been quashed in Virginia.
A separate Mississippi bill that would classify parents as child abusers if they let their children receive this treatment has died in committee, but bills defining care providers as abusers remain pending in Missouri and Texas. In Texas last year, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered that parents who allow their minor children to undergo gender-affirming procedures be investigated for child abuse, but most of these investigations are blocked by court action while a lawsuit is heard.
The Human Rights Campaign condemned Wyoming’s move. “Wyoming is where Matthew Shepard was killed in a hateful attack simply because he was gay,” HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. “More than two decades later, politicians in the state are now using their power to try to keep young transgender people from lifesaving care simply because of who they are. It’s shameful, dangerous, and wrong. And it will make Wyoming less safe for the entire LGBTQ+ community. Matt’s legacy deserves better.
“Denying medically necessary, age-appropriate care to youth simply because they are transgender, and telling parents and doctors that they cannot provide best-practice, sometimes lifesaving care to children who need it is invasive and downright dangerous. Instead of voting on the real issues impacting the health and wellbeing of Wyoming’s youth, politicians with little to no medical background are creating a frightening and dystopian reality for families and medical providers alike. We ask the House to reject this policy that will do nothing but harm transgender youth simply trying to live life as their authentic selves, and reaffirm that Wyoming is the Equality State.”