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Georgia House passes ban on most forms of gender-affirming health care for transgender minors

The bill passed the Senate last week. Difference in the House and Senate bills must be sorted before Gov. Brian Kemp can sign it.

ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would ban most forms of gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.

SB 140 was passed by a vote of 96-75. The legislation, which passed the Senate last week, would prevent hospitals and related facilities from providing gender reassignment surgery, any surgical procedures designed to alter primary or secondary sexual characteristics and hormone replacement therapy to people younger than 18 years old. 

The bill bans those surgeries and treatments for minors attempting to treat gender dysphoria — feelings that biological sex and gender identity are mismatched. 

Democratic representatives who opposed the bill warned of the potential harm it would cause for the transgender Georgians and their loved ones. Multiple lawmakers cited the mental health consequences of the legislation.

"To all the children who will be negatively impacted by this bill — please don't lose hope," said Rep. Karla Drenner (D- Avondale Estates). "Please don't give up. Please don't kill yourself."

Republicans who supported the bill argued that SB 140 was narrowly tailored with the intent of protecting Georgia children.

Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Republican from Powder Springs, said the bill prevents children from being "sterilized" and "surgically altered by experimental medical procedures." 

SB 140 includes exceptions for people with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development or need treatments for other medical conditions. Minors who are receiving hormone therapy treatment before July 1 would be allowed to continue should the bill pass.

Unlike previously proposed legislation, SB 140 would not ban puberty blockers.

Thursday's vote is not the bill's final step. State representatives amended the bill in committee, removing language that protected physicians from being held criminally or civilly liable for damages, losses, injury or death from treatments. 

Differences in the House and Senate bills must be sorted out before Gov. Brian Kemp can sign the legislation. House members voted to send the bill to the Senate immediately.

 According to the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, gender-affirming healthcare "greatly improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse, transgender, and nonbinary children and adolescents."

Multiple medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming healthcare.

Surgical procedures like chest and genital surgeries are less common forms of gender-affirming care. Chest surgery may be performed on older adolescents, and genital surgery isn't typically performed until a person is 18 years or older. 

Georgia is joining a wave of other states that are limiting gender-affirming healthcare.

Four states — Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah —  signed restrictions into law this year. Roughly two dozens other states are considering bans or limitations, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Laws limiting gender-affirming care in Alabama and Arkansas were blocked by federal courts.

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