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Texas Legislature passes ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans minors

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 14 — a measure that would ban gender-affirming care for minors — debate their positions in the Capitol rotunda on May 2.

The ACLU of Texas announced Thursday it intends to sue the state over Senate Bill 14, which would ban gender-affirming medical care for children in the state.

“We will defend the rights of transgender youth in court, just as we have done in other states engaging in this anti-science and discriminatory fear-mongering,” the organization said.

The Texas Senate gave final approval to the measure Wednesday. SB 14 was supported by the Republican majority in the Texas Legislature and now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, despite opposition from medical experts and LGBTQ-rights advocates.

Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, doubled down Wednesday on her claim that the legislation will protect children.

“Children do not have the maturity to give a fully-informed consent for such treatments,” Campbell, who is an emergency room physician, said. “As a doctor, I am informed, and gender modification therapy is not healthy.”

Gender-affirming care practices are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the American Board of Pediatrics as best practices for care.

Still, Campbell and other Republicans have labeled transition-related medical care a “cottage industry,” and have even called gender dysphoria a “temporary mental delusion.”

Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, called the measure “the right thing.”

“We protect children against lots of things — we don’t let them smoke, we don’t let them drink, we don’t let them buy lottery cards,” Hall said.

The version passed by the Senate on Wednesday is the same passed by the House earlier this week.

It would ban treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy for people under 18.

However, minors who started gender-affirming care before June 1, and who have attended six months of counseling or psychotherapy before that date, will be able to wean off the treatment with the guidance of their physician.

This is a big change from the original Senate version, which would have required transgender minors to abruptly stop treatment.

Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, said the new version “lessens the blow.” She still blasted Republicans for pushing for the measure.

“Denying gender-affirming care to transgender kids is partisan politics with potentially deadly consequences for all Texans — not just transgender Texans,” she said Wednesday.

The Democrat also talked about how this also has an impact on the medical community and those trying to help transgender youth.

One of the organizations that helps transgender youth is Resource Center, a Dallas-based LGBTQ+ health and community organization that serves more than 62,000 people a year. The organization has spoken out against bills like SB 14 throughout the legislative session.

While the center doesn’t offer this direct care, Transgender Education and Advocacy Associate Leslie McMurray said in a statement that “transgender youth deserve access to age-appropriate, medically necessary, best-practice healthcare and their parents and physicians should be the ones making private healthcare decisions – not politicians.”

“Resource Center has advocated for the rights and dignities of LGBTQIA+ Texans since our founding 40 years ago and we have seen firsthand how transgender youth thrive when affirmed in their communities,” McMurray wrote after the bill’s passage. “SB 14 is another dangerous roadblock for youth who are trying to live authentically as themselves and we will continue to oppose discriminatory bills that target Texas’ youth and our community every step of the way.”

The Pride Center in San Antonio, which provides community support, case management and therapy to LGBTQ+ people, wrote in a statement that the bill is a “harmful and devastating setback to our community.”

“[It’s] yet another coordinated attack on Texans' access to healthcare as well as the health and well-being of all transgender people and those that care for and love them,” said Executive Director Robert Salcido, Jr. “To our transgender youth in San Antonio, across the state, and nation, we see you, we affirm your authenticity, we love you, and will do all that we can to continue to support you.”

But the implementation of the bill — once it’s signed by Abbott — is uncertain.

The governor didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the former Texas Capitol reporter for The Texas Newsroom.
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