A bill that would ban minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday.
Authored by Sen. Tyler Johnson (above), R-Leo, Senate Bill 480 would stop transgender children under 18 from receiving gender-affirming medical assistance, whether it be surgeries, hormonal therapy or other medication.
The bill appears this legislative session in conjunction with other bills on transgender rights currently being heard in the Indiana Statehouse, such as House Bill 1407, a bill on “parental rights,” and House Bill 1608, which would ban discussions on “human sexuality” in the classroom for children in kindergarten through third grade.
Johnson, a physician, said he authored the bill because he is worried some children may receive medical care and then regret it later on.
“We hear stories from adults about their regrets and about harms done to them as minors,” Johnson said. “Our goal here, really, is to cause less harm and let these kids get the counseling they need, and that’ll protect them from these life-altering decisions until they’re adults.”
With protestors shouting outside the Senate Chamber, many signed up to testify in opposition to the bill, each speaker limited to three minutes.
Parents Nathaniel and Beth Clawson testified that their daughter will not receive gender-affirming care if the bill is passed. Their daughter has already transitioned socially, meaning she wears feminine clothing and uses she/her pronouns, but the Clawsons are concerned that their child’s mental health will suffer once she begins puberty.
“Puberty can be a difficult time for everyone, but my fear is that my daughter will be forced to go through male puberty after she has been living as herself, as a girl, since she was very small,” Beth Clawson said. “Without age-appropriate medical care as recommended by our doctors, I fear that she will take her own life. … Please give her a chance at a happy childhood.”
Krisztina Inskeep and her husband, Kenneth, also testified in opposition, sharing that if their son had not received gender-affirming care, he might not be alive today.
“If you vote for this bill, look us in the eye when you do,” Kenneth Inskeep said. “Your vote will tell us that we are bad and abusive parents, too stupid to make medical decisions for our own kids, that we do not have the right to make the decisions that are best for our family.”
Katie Blair, director of advocacy and public policy for the ACLU of Indiana, testified that other states have tried similar bills, though most are tied up in court. She said under the bill’s passing, doctors would not be able to treat patients properly.
“Senate Bill 480 exerts state control over medical professionals by limiting their First Amendment right to discuss medical care with their patients by gagging doctors’ ability to discuss treatment options and preventing them from referring patients to other qualified doctors.”
Leo Ryan, a 17-year-old who began taking hormonal medication two years ago, said the bill would severely hurt transitioning children and that the decision to transition is not made lightly.
“Banning gender-affirming health care for our trans siblings under 18 is extremely harmful,” Ryan said. “What you are saying with this bill is that you are OK with kids considering or actually attempting killing themselves, targeting families and doctors who are trying to save their children’s lives. Gender-affirming care saves lives.”
After having to end testimony in opposition due to time constraints, Committee Chair Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, moved on to those testifying in support of the bill.
Luka Hein, who received a double mastectomy at 16 outside of Indiana, said they were harmed by their gender-affirming procedures.
“They deserve a chance at life to get to know what it’s like as an adult before that is taken away from them and they are made a permanent patient,” Hein said. “They cannot consent to the long-term impacts of these things, and it is your job as the adults in the room to protect them from that.”
Prisha Mosley, who said she was harmed by her medical treatment, shared intimate details about her body post-procedure.
“My body burns all of the time due to the changes that caused. My hips are so small that they cannot support the weight of my painfully overgrown shoulders. Being disproportionate like this causes constant pain and clumsiness,” Mosley said.
Despite receiving her top surgery in North Carolina, Mosley said she is in full support of a “bill that saves children from so-called gender-affirming care.”
Dr. Erin Kay, an Indianapolis physician, said that the care transgender children receive is not the highest quality. Kay said that hormonal medications and treatments can create irreversible effects on fertility.
“Children under the age of 18 cannot consent to these. They’re not able to consent to these,” Kay said. “These medical protocols fundamentally harm normally functioning bodies and potentially cause disordered normally functioning bodies, which is something that as a physician I took an arm of oath to not do.”
Dr. Andrew Mullally said that many of these treatments are unneeded and unethical. “The state has a profound interest in protecting this vulnerable population, and as such, I support this bill,” he said.
With a vote of 8-3, the bill passed the committee and will be eligible for review by the full Senate.
Ashlyn Myers is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.