Thursday, February 22

Ohio governor blocks law banning transitional care for minors

Lawmakers approved the measure in early December. Those in favor of the bill argue that parents are pressured by doctors to approve transition treatments for their children. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Gary Click, said parents are being “manipulated by doctors.”

In addition to banning transitional care for minors, the bill says medical professionals who provide the care could lose their licenses and be sued. It also bans transgender girls and women from playing on high school and college sports teams that match their gender identity.

On Friday, 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 they love most that child, the parents.”

The governor made his decision after visiting hospitals and meeting with families “both positively and negatively affected” by gender-affirming care last week, a spokeswoman said.

The Ohio bill came at the end of a year that saw the passage of a record number of new laws to regulate the lives of transgender youth.

Before this year, only three states had passed restrictions on gender transition medical care for minors, according to a New York Times analysis. The count now stands at more than 20. Several dozen laws have been enacted this year, including ones on how gender can be discussed in the classroom, which bathrooms transgender students can use and whether they can participate in school sports.

The testimony in Ohio echoed themes expressed elsewhere in the state. Supporters of banning transitional care argue that the treatments on minors are relatively new and that the long-term effects are not well studied.

This summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics commissioned a systematic review of medical research on the treatments, while continuing to believe they may be essential. Transgender adolescents have high rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm, and some evidence suggests that puberty blockers and hormones could improve their mental health in the short term.

“The most heartbreaking part of my job is informing parents that their child has died, especially when the death was a preventable suicide,” Dr. Steve Davis, CEO of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told Ohio senators during a hearing on the bill. “You trust us in every other condition. Please trust us on this.”

For now, minors in Ohio can continue to receive gender transition treatment. But the Ohio Legislature, where Republicans hold a supermajority, could override DeWine’s veto. In this case, only those who have already received treatments will be able to continue them.

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, approximately 100,000 transgender minors live in the 23 states that have laws restricting care based on gender. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of the laws in some states and let them take effect in others. Many families, fearing the abrupt end to a child’s care, have moved across state lines.

Last month, transgender youth and their families in Tennessee asked the Supreme Court to block the state’s ban on assisting children to transition. If the court agreed to hear the case, it would have implications for state bans across the country, legal experts said.

Anna Betts contributed to the reporting.