Ohio to Ban Transition Care After Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto

Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday overrode Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that would bar transgender minors from receiving puberty blockers, hormone therapy or gender transition surgery.

The move by the Republican-controlled state legislature comes less than four weeks after the Republican governor’s veto. The state House voted on Jan. 10 to override Mr. DeWine’s veto, and the Senate has now cleared the way for the law to go into effect, in 90 days.

For Ohio residents, that means that only transgender minors who have already begun transition care treatments will be able to receive them. According to a report published in 2022 by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. law school, there were about 8,500 children in the state from ages 13 to 17 who identified as transgender, while about 46,500 adults identified as such.

Ohio’s legislation is part of a national wave of laws that aim to restrict the rights of transgender minors. Last year, at least 20 states, all with Republican-controlled legislatures, passed bans or restrictions on gender transition care for young people. Before 2023, only three states had passed restrictions on gender transition medical care for minors, according to a New York Times analysis.

The Ohio law, which originally passed the legislature in early December, says that medical professionals who provide transition care to minors in violation of the measure could lose their licenses and face legal action.

Those in favor of the bill in Ohio argued that parents are often pressured by doctors to sign off on transition care treatments for their children. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Gary Click, has said that parents are “being manipulated by the physicians.” But leading medical groups in the United States, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say such care should be available to minors and oppose legislative bans.

The law also prohibits transgender girls and women from playing on high school or college sports teams that correspond with their gender identity. The provisions of the bill are largely in line with those of other Republican-led states, though some other states’ laws do not address the sports-team issue.

At least 20 states have passed restrictions on transgender athletes playing on K-12 and collegiate sports teams. In Ohio, as elsewhere, supporters argued that they are necessary to protect the safety and integrity of girls’ and women’s sports. Critics note that such rules affect a very small number of students, and may do harm to the physical and mental health of transgender youth.

Mr. DeWine’s veto was a rare rejection by a Republican leader in what has been a concerted effort by that party to mobilize cultural conservatives around transgender issues for the 2024 primaries. In the past, Mr. DeWine has broken from the Republican Party line on other issues as well, such as his initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his veto announcement, Mr. DeWine said that if the bill became law, “Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most, the parents.” The governor reached his decision after visiting hospitals and meeting with families “both positively and negatively affected” by gender-affirming care, a spokesperson said.

After Mr. DeWine vetoed the legislation, he was attacked on social media by former President Donald J. Trump, who said that the governor had “fallen to the radical left” and that he hoped the Ohio legislature would overturn his decision.

Just a week after the veto, Mr. DeWine issued an executive order banning gender-transition surgeries for anyone under 18 at state hospitals or ambulatory clinics and directed Ohio health agencies to propose rules that require a team of medical providers, including an endocrinologist, a bioethicist and a mental health specialist, to be involved in prescribing gender-affirming care to people. Under the rules, parents would also need to explicitly give consent for all treatments.

The directives appeared to add new restrictions to transgender adults that were not included in the bill, a signal that Mr. DeWine may have been trying to strike a compromise with Republican lawmakers. But the governor ultimately stood by his objection to the broader ban on gender-affirming care.

After the Ohio House voted to override Mr. DeWine’s veto, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio condemned the move. “Ohioans do not want government officials involved in private medical decisions. These matters should be reserved for parents, children and doctors,” the group said in a statement.

The advocacy organization also criticized Mr. DeWine’s proposed restrictions barring primary care providers from giving hormone treatments to transgender people of any age, saying the order would force “thousands of transgender Ohioans to go without health care treatments they and their doctors know they need.”

In more than half of the states that have passed bans on transition medical care for minors, court challenges have been filed. The litigation is still ongoing in most of the challenges. In November, transgender youth and their families in Tennessee asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state’s ban on transition care for minors. If the court agrees to hear the case, it would have consequences for state bans across the country, legal experts said.

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