AUSTIN — For several hours Thursday, people testified for and against a Texas bill that would ban puberty blockers and other medical treatments for transgender youth.
Senate Bill 14, authored by New Braunfels Republican Sen. Donna Campbell, went before the Senate State Affairs Committee, where dozens signed up to speak.
SB 14 bans puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries, including a mastectomy, for transition purposes for minors under the age of 18. It also revokes the licenses of practicing physicians who provide children with such treatment, and it blocks the use of public dollars to go to facilities that provide such care.
“This bill is not about adults; it's not about those who are of maturity that can make a fully informed consent and decision. SB 14 is all about child protection,” Campbell said.
Puberty blockers, which are given to transgender youth to halt the production of estrogen or testosterone, and hormone therapy, produce physical changes to a body.
Those in favor of the bill argued that many of these treatments can cause long-term and irreversible damage.
Dr. Bethany Rife, a Texas-based pediatrician, called puberty blockers and similar treatment “unnecessary medical intervention,” with youth who are instead needing counseling and other like services.
“The answer to this is to help them in their self resolution with counseling and get them out of this high-risk category,” Rife said. “These children are hurting and they deserve help.”
State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, said that as a member of the Senate Education Committee, parents are fighting for the right to make decisions for their children, but a bill like SB 14 strips a parent of that right.
Campbell argued that parents are not given the choice when they are coerced by medical professionals into allowing “gender-affirming” care of their child over the often cited alternative that their child could attempt suicide.
“There are ample examples out in society where a counselor has actually said in front of the child to the parent, ‘Your child is likely to commit suicide if they don't get this gender-affirming care,’” Campbell said. “That is a purposeful misguidance of a parent because that's not the truth.”
Megan Mooney, with the the Texas Psychological Association, said it is not standard practice to coerce parents into making these important decisions, but in fact it is a “very collaborative process, where parents are driving this ship.”
“This treatment includes a careful and thoughtful process, it is not quick,” Mooney said. “This treatment process — like all others for mental health care of youth — is collaborative and involves considerations of the goals of the young person as well as their parents in the context of our professional standards of care and the evidence of effective therapies.”
Campbell and others also raised concerns about the permanency of surgery, to which Amanda Afifi, on behalf of the Texas Association of School Psychologists, said standards of care typically do not recommend surgeries for people under the age of 18.
As for the possibility that a young person could regret the decision to transition, Afifi said in an analysis involving 8,000 teens and adults who receive transgender surgery, only 1% expressed regret, and of that 1%, some regret was reported to only be temporary.
Menendez cited another study that found that nearly 98% of transgender youth who took puberty blockers as minors continued treatment into adulthood.
“Gender-affirming care and therapy that our clients are provided by their affirming providers is literally life saving,” Afifi said. “Gender-affirming care as treatment is completed at the request of an individual with consent from their parents and made in consultation and with the advice of a team of qualified medical and behavioral health professionals.”
The committee did not vote on the bill, but did complete public testimony. Should it prevail, it will move the full senate for a vote.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the senate, has named SB 14 one of his top priorities during this legislative session.
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