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This Arizona Republican Helped Block a Trans Health Care Ban

Tyler Pace

State Sen. Tyler Pace said he was moved by hearing about treatments that save and improve lives.

A Republican state senator in Arizona has gone against his party to kill a bill that would have banned gender-affirming health care for minors.

Sen. Tyler Pace voted Wednesday against advancing the bill out of the Health and Human Services Committee, joining three Democrats to make the vote a 4-4 tie, NBC News reports. This means the bill will not go any farther.

The measure, Senate Bill 848, would have banned all gender-affirming procedures for people under 18, including not only genital surgery -- which doctors do not generally recommend for minors anyway -- but also hormone treatment, puberty blockers, facial feminization surgery, and more.

Pace said his vote was influenced by the testimony from transgender youth and their families at a committee hearing last week. "The testimonies we heard today about the many people who are using these avenues of medical treatments to save lives, to improve lives," he said at the hearing. "I don't want my vote to stop those great things."

The bill is "so freaking mean," one parent of a trans child said during the hearing, according to The Arizona Republic. "It takes medical decisions out of the hands of parents like me and their informed providers and puts it the hands of government officials," another parent testified. Trans young people also told the committee they'd considered suicide if they had to live in the wrong gender.

Lizette Trujillo, mother of a 14-year-old trans boy, told NBC News that Pace was undoubtedly moved by the testimony from her and others about the benefits of gender-affirming procedures. "My son is proof that affirming and supportive care by a medical team is the right thing to do because my child has never been suicidal or self-harmed," she said.

"When you meet our kids and you see them and you meet our community, a lot of those biases that people carry are dispelled, because we're just families trying to do the right thing," she continued. "I think that Senator Pace saw that in that moment."

"When people hear how important gender-affirming care is, and also how normal and safe it is, they can be won over and they can change their mind and make the right call," added Jeanne Woodbury, policy and communications director at Equality Arizona. "I think we can keep that going."

Trans Arizonans still face a hostile agenda in the state legislature. Fifteen anti-LGBTQ+ have been introduced there this year, the most of any state, and several of them specifically target trans people. Lawmakers are scheduled Monday to discuss a bill that would restrict public restroom use by trans people, and the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on its version of a trans health care ban.

So far, Arkansas is the only state that has enacted a ban like the one proposed in Arizona, with legislators overriding Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto, but that law has been temporarily blocked by a judge while a lawsuit against it proceeds. Tennessee adopted a less strict law, banning hormone treatment for gender-dysphoric minors who haven't entered puberty -- which no doctor in Tennessee prescribes. LGBTQ+ advocates opposed the Tennessee legislation anyway because of the precedent it sets for state interference in health care decisions.

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