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Senate committee advances bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care

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Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images
Republican-pushed bills nationwide are seeking to deny minors access to hormone therapy and puberty blockers. Both are treatments that have been vetted and peer-reviewed by mainstream medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Senate Labor, Health and Social Services committee heard testimony on a bill which would make it a felony to give anyone under the age of 18 hormone blockers, hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery.

"What's happening is that people are preying on young adolescents that are having that kind of confusion and persuading them the way to solve it is to get their sex changed to the other sex," said Senator Charles Scott (R-Casper), the bill's primary sponsor.

Several of Scott's statements were corrected by pediatricians and other medical professionals during the hour-plus of testimony that followed.

Bills of this nature are opposed by every major medical and pediatric association and both the Wyoming Psychological Association and the State Academy of Pediatrics testified against it.

Andrew Rose, a Cheyenne pediatrician, said families and kids don't start transition lightly or because it's a fad.

"They don't want to find themselves in that situation — why would they? Especially here in Wyoming?" he said. "And no, these kids aren't just confused. They're not immature, they're not just in a state. Instead, they identify in a way that society tells them they shouldn't. And of course that creates dissonance."

Pediatricians told lawmakers that trans youth are not receiving gender-affirming surgery in Wyoming, and they are unlikely to start hormone therapy here either. As teenagers, they might start taking hormone blockers — but not testosterone or estrogen. Hormone blockers are considered safe by most medical professionals and their effects are mostly reversible.

Those in favor of the bill said they didn't believe the research or didn't trust the consensus view among experts. Mike Leman, legislative liaison for the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, testified in favor of the bill, saying parents and children are making decisions with incomplete information.

"Perhaps as a parent one feels that if it keeps my child alive for one day, then it's worth doing. That is certainly understandable," Leman said. "But real science isn't supposed to make assumptions or promises."

The bill exempts surgeries done on intersex newborns.These surgeries are often undertaken in the United States to make a child more male or more female, but international human rights organizations call them "medically unnecessary."

"And my understanding of common medical practice is the doctors and the parents get together and say, 'Okay, you got both, you need one or the other.' And deal with it," Sen. Scott said.

Committee Chair Sen. Fred Baldwin (R-Kemmerer), who voted against the bill, said he was uncomfortable passing such a law in an area where he and other lawmakers lack expertise.

"I don't know that this bill is refined enough to do what it intends to do," he said. "And I think that we step too far into the medical field. I think we need to lead doctors to be doctors and not criminalize people."

The bill advanced with a 3-2 vote. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for further debate.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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