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Bills introduced to Texas Legislature could halt health care for transgender kids

One bill would not impact treatment for adults – it only applies to people younger than 18. The bill would still allow conversion therapies and counseling.

AUSTIN, Texas — As soon as lawmakers were allowed to file legislation, some Texas Republicans authored bills aimed at putting a stop to transgender kids accessing certain health care treatments.

A public hearing with the Senate State Affairs Committee continued Thursday evening at the Capitol over a bill that would ban several types of gender-affirming care for Texas children. Lawmakers heard both invited and public testimony.

Senate Bill 14 would ban puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries for transition purposes for minors under the age of 18. It would also revoke the licenses of doctors who give provide children with that care and block public dollars from going to those facilities.

The bill, authored by New Braunfels State Sen. Donna Campbell, would also bar taxpayer money from going to any health care provider, medical school, hospital or other entity or individual that “facilitates or provides” this care. The bill also seeks to halt transition-related surgeries for minors, though medical experts say such procedures are rarely, if ever, performed on children.

Campbell, an emergency room doctor, told the Senate State Affairs Committee it’s time for government to step in.

“Fifteen years ago, this would be rarely heard of. Now it's just exploding,” Campbell said. “It used to start with young teenage boys. Now it's just a plethora of young teenage girls.”

The issue is one of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick’s priorities this session and has 10 GOP senators signed on as co-authors. Similar bills have been introduced in the Texas House, but neither House Speaker Dade Phelan nor Gov. Greg Abbott have publicly backed the effort.

Prior to the committee hearing, Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) held a rally outside the Capitol to speak out against SB 14 and related bills. The two rallying groups say the bills attempt to end life-saving health care for transgender people.

"Important ways I think we should approach this is by telling the government they have no business in getting involved in making these medical decisions,” said Dr. Jessica Zwiener, an endocrinologist from Houston who joined the rally. “It's a real slippery slope when they start picking and choosing which guidelines they get to follow and ones we don't."

Campbell’s bill would not impact treatment for adults – it only applies to people younger than 18. The bill would still allow conversion therapies and counseling.

Other bill up for debate are Senate Bill 162, Senate Bill 250 and Senate Bill 1029.

SB 162 require doctors to put a sex on birth certificates unless a newborn is intersex, which is when a person is born with a combination of male and female biological traits.

SB 250 would bar physicians from providing minors with puberty blockers or hormone therapies and would ban insurance companies from covering such treatment. The bill would also revoke the licenses of health care professionals who provide such treatment.

SB 1029 allows people to sue health insurance companies for covering transgender treatment. It also bars government funded insurance companies from covering transgender health care.

Much of the debate Thursday centered on the age at which such care should be provided. The Senate State Affairs committee could ultimately vote to advance SB 14 to the full Senate for a vote, or they could take no action and leave the bill pending.

If it passes, the bill’s next stop will be debate by the full Texas Senate. Both chambers must approve and the governor must sign any bill for it to become law.

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