NC fast tracks legislation to ban gender-affirming surgery for minors

By: - May 2, 2023 1:15 pm

Rep. Ken Fontenot said House Bill 808 was necessary to protect the vulnerable from “radical activism.” Photo: feed

Without questions or debate, members of the House Committee on Health advanced legislation Tuesday that would block gender-affirming surgical care for minors in North Carolina.

“If you are under the age of 18 in North Carolina, you cannot get a tattoo at all, even with your parents consent. You can’t get a body piercing other than for earrings without parent consent. But we allow these surgical procedures that in many instances maybe are irreversible and life-changing for children who have not arrived at 18 years of age,” said Rep. Hugh Blackwell in introducing his bill.

House Bill 808, the Surgical Gender Trans./Minors Act, would make it unlawful for any physician or other health care provider to provide surgical gender transition procedures to any individual under 18 years of age. As introduced, the bill would have also banned prescribing, administering, or supplying testosterone, estrogen, or progesterone to a minor in an amount greater than would normally be produced in a healthy child of that age and sex, but that language was removed in the “committee substitute” adopted Tuesday.

No state funds could be used for gender transition procedures or to support government-offered insurance policy that offer surgical gender transition procedures to individuals under 18 under the bill.

Under a companion bill in the NC Senate (SB 639), mental health care professionals, or counselors who engage in any of the specified unlawful practices outlined in the legislation could be deemed to have engaged in unprofessional conduct and subject to licensure revocation for at least one year, or other appropriate discipline by the respective licensing board.

Rep. Ken Fontenot said the legislation was necessary to protect the vulnerable from “radical activism.”

But the ban on gender-affirming care would apply even in cases where there is parental consent.

“There is at least two examples in our nation’s last 100 years of medical experimentation we began in the name of justice, equity, and the promise of a better life. In both of those examples, we have looked back and condemned the party responsible,” said the Wilson County Republican.

“They should have extensive mental health coverage and counseling. They should eliminate every possible thing that can be causing this issue and then they should have these services. I believe that’ll happen over 18 years old.”

Nine minutes into the remarks by Fontenot and Blackwell, committee chair Rep. Erin Paré (R-Wake) signaled an end to the discussion and called for a vote.

Members of the audience anxious to speak for or against the bill were out of luck.

“All those in favor will say ‘aye.’ All those opposed? The ‘ayes ‘have it. The motion passes. This committee is adjourned,” said Paré gaveling the meeting’s adjournment.

Equality NC has criticized the bill as an attack on transgender youth and their access to medical and mental healthcare.

On Monday, more than 450+ medical and mental health providers in North Carolina signed an open letter opposing legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.

“We adamantly oppose any bans or restrictions on access to and provision of life-saving, gender-affirming care,” the letter states.

Allison Scott of the Campaign for Southern Equality said the bill was simply adding to the relentless drumbeat of cruel attacks on LGBTQ youth seen across the country.

“Medical decisions are private choices for the families of youth and their doctors, and we do not need government and politicians forcing themselves into the most personal decisions in a family’s life,” said Scott in a press release.

The Human Rights Campaign estimates nationwide that 18.0% of transgender youth are at risk of losing access to gender affirming care because of similar bans being passed in state legislatures.

The Surgical Gender Trans./Minors Act (House Bill 808) now moves to the House Rules Committee where it could be added to Tuesday’s agenda. It’s expected to be on the House floor ahead of Thursday’s crossover deadline.

Note: This story has been updated to reflect changes made to the original bill in Tuesday’s committee meeting.

Gender Affirming Care Bans by State (Source: Human Rights Campaign)

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Clayton Henkel
Clayton Henkel

Communications Coordinator Clayton Henkel manages the NC Newsline website and daily newsletter, while also producing daily audio commentaries and the weekly News and Views radio program/podcast.