The South Carolina House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to approve a bill that would prohibit health professionals from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery. The bill also restricts the use of Medicaid funds for such care and requires school staff to notify parents if they learn that a student identifies as transgender.
The bill faces opposition from medical experts and LGBTQ+ advocates
The bill, known as House Bill 4624, was introduced by Republican Rep. Stewart Jones and co-sponsored by 35 other lawmakers. It passed the House by a vote of 81 to 35, mostly along party lines. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to face resistance from Democrats and some moderate Republicans.
The bill’s supporters argue that it is necessary to protect children from irreversible medical interventions that could harm their physical and mental health. They claim that transgender youth are confused and need guidance from their parents and doctors, not hormones and surgery.
However, the bill’s opponents contend that it is a discriminatory and dangerous attack on the rights and well-being of transgender youth. They point out that gender-affirming care is widely endorsed by major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the Endocrine Society, as a safe and effective way to alleviate the distress and improve the outcomes of transgender youth. They also warn that the bill could increase the risk of suicide, depression, and discrimination among transgender youth, who already face high rates of violence and harassment.
The bill could have legal and economic consequences for South Carolina
The bill could also have legal and economic implications for South Carolina, as it could face lawsuits and boycotts from civil rights groups and businesses. Several states, such as Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama, have enacted similar bans on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, and have been challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations. Some of these states have also faced backlash from corporations, celebrities, and sports leagues, who have condemned the laws as discriminatory and harmful.
South Carolina is one of the few Southern states that has not passed any anti-transgender legislation in recent years, despite having a Republican-controlled legislature and governor. However, the state has also not enacted any laws to protect transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy group, South Carolina is one of the worst states for LGBTQ+ equality, ranking 47th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The bill affects the lives and futures of transgender youth in South Carolina
The bill has a direct impact on the lives and futures of transgender youth in South Carolina, who are estimated to number around 4,000, according to the Williams Institute, a research center at UCLA School of Law. These youth face many challenges and barriers to accessing affirming and supportive health care, education, and social services, especially in rural and conservative areas of the state.
Some of these youth and their families have spoken out against the bill, sharing their personal stories and experiences with gender-affirming care. They have testified before lawmakers, written letters and op-eds, and participated in rallies and protests. They have expressed their fears and frustrations about the bill, and their hopes and dreams for their future.
One of these youth is 15-year-old Riley, who identifies as a transgender girl. She has been receiving puberty blockers and hormone therapy for over a year, with the consent of her parents and doctors. She says that these treatments have improved her mental health, self-esteem, and academic performance. She also says that she has supportive friends and teachers at her school, who respect her identity and pronouns.
Riley says that she is scared of what the bill could mean for her and other transgender youth in South Carolina. She says that she does not want to lose access to the care that has helped her feel comfortable and happy in her own body. She says that she wants to be treated like any other girl, and have the same opportunities and rights as her peers.
“I just want to live my life as who I am, and not have to worry about being discriminated against or denied care,” Riley says. “I want to grow up and go to college, and maybe become a doctor or a lawyer. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to be happy.”