Bill restricting gender-affirming care among minors nudged forward in Tennessee legislature

Trans Rights sign, transgender
Posted at 5:59 PM, Jan 31, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A controversial bill that would affect youth considering gender-affirming care moved toward becoming Tennessee law.

Republicans are sponsoring a bill that would ban gender-affirming surgeries for children in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee lawmakers made their way into the discourse of gender-affirming care and minors in September after a conservative blogger questioned whether Vanderbilt University Medical Center should provide gender-affirming care to patients. Matt Walsh — a Daily Wire conservative commentator, who questions the legitimacy of LGBTQ rights — said he considered the care to be that of castration and mutilation of minors and adults.

A standing-room crowd inside the committee room in the Cordell Hull building reached capacity before NewsChannel 5 could even get our camera inside.

Republicans invited Chloe Cole to testify. She's an 18-year-old from California, who at age 13, began gender-affirming care only to decide she didn't want to continue down that path. She spoke about why lawmakers should pass House Bill 1.

"From the very beginning, the doctors were negligent," Cole said. "They treated me as if I were an adult who was capable of making informed lifelong decisions that would affect every area of my life — from socialization and relationships to sexual function and my ability to have children.

Those surgeries are now paused at VUMC, but officials there said they require parental consent to treat minors who are being seen for issues to those receiving gender-affirming care and never refuse parental involvement for those under 18. VUMC officials said they began their Transgender Health Clinic because "transgender individuals are a high-risk population for mental and physical health issues and have been consistently underserved by the U.S. health system."

Representative Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, spoke out against the bill, saying that all of the major medical associations support gender-affirming care when parents give permission, children are all for it and doctors agree it's necessary.

Mitchell argued unintended consequences could end up harming other children who need this care, and that there have been no documented cases of gender-affirming surgeries below the belt here in Tennessee.

Chase Strangio — an ACLU attorney and a member of the trans community — spoke about how this bill could open Tennessee up to massive lawsuits that could cost the state millions of dollars to fight.

"Because this law infringes the fundamental rights of parents and discriminates based on sex and transgender status it triggers strict scrutiny, or at least heightened scrutiny, which means it will be the government’s burden to defend it in court," Strangio said. "And Tennessee, like Texas and Arkansas, will not be able to do so."

The bill ultimately passed the House Health Subcommittee and will move onto the House's full health committee.

The Senate will hear this bill Wednesday in its subcommittee at 1 p.m. in Cordell Hull.

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