The South Carolina Senate passes a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Senate is debating a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors with just days remaining in a 2024 session in which they have largely avoided hot-button societal issues.

The bill, passed by the state House of Representatives in January during the opening days of the General Assembly, would ban health care professionals from performing sex reassignment surgeries, prescribing puberty blockers and monitoring hormone treatments for patients under 18.

Principals or assistant principals would be required to notify parents or guardians if a child wishes to use a name other than their legal name or a nickname or pronouns that do not match the gender assigned at birth.

Sen. Richard Cash Debate on the bill began Wednesday by asking the Senate for its approval. “We are talking about a serious topic. Nobody takes this lightly,” the Powdersville Republican said.

The bill's passage seemed likely.

The Senate consists of 30 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one independent. Last week, Democrats did not force a vote on the record, even though the proposal would have needed two-thirds approval to move to the top of the list of bills to be passed. After about an hour of debate, the Senate adjourned, expected to take up the issue again on Thursday.

The bill would also prevent people from using Medicaid to cover the cost of gender-affirming care.

Doctors and parents testified before committees in the House and Senate that people under 18 are not allowed to receive gender reassignment surgeries in South Carolina and begin hormone treatments only after extensive consultation with health experts.

They said the treatments could be life-saving and enable young transgender people to live fuller lives. Research has shown that transgender youth and adults are vulnerable to stress, depression and suicidal behavior when forced to live in the gender they were assigned at birth.

That statement was most important to Brent Cox, who was waiting to speak with a lawmaker in the Statehouse lobby on Wednesday wearing a “Protect Trans Youth” T-shirt. He said it breaks his heart about the way children are treated when they may be dealing with transgender or LGBTQ+ issues, but this issue is particularly galling because of lawmakers' crackdown on doctors.

“I think that people who are unqualified to make medical decisions need to consult their doctor, just as people would rely on and listen to their doctor if they had a cancer diagnosis,” Cox said.

Proponents of the bill have cited their own unpublished evidence that puberty blockers increase self-harm and can be irreversible.

“This decision has far greater consequences than, say, the decision to get a tattoo, to pursue a career, or even to choose a spouse,” Cash said.

The proposal is part of a broader push to roll back transgender rights from Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the US

But it wasn't successful everywhere.

On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes South Carolina, ruled that West Virginia and North Carolina's refusal to cover certain health services for transgender people through government-sponsored insurance is discriminatory. The case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kansas also failed to become the 25th state to restrict or ban child care because its legislature was unable to override a governor's veto on the same day.

The South Carolina General Assembly took a slower, more deliberate approach to social issues in a debate-dominated session that resulted in a law allowing the open carry of guns and a wide-ranging bill to encourage more energy production by easing rules on power plant permits Questions selected.

The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 31 bills in South Carolina that allegedly target the LGBTQ+ community. The ban on gender-affirming care is the only one expected to pass and is less stringent than bans in other states.

Other conservative proposals, such as new rules giving the state education agency oversight of school library books or banning vaccination mandates for private companies, are unlikely to pass before the end of the regular session on May 9.

Anna Harden

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