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Bill Deprives Teens with Gender Dysphoria of Health Care

It is well documented that children who have gender identity issues struggle.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that 13- to 17-year-olds who identify as transgender, or are simply trying to sort out their gender identity, face higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.

AAP and the American Medical Association both strongly recommend that children with gender dysphoria and their families seek the safe and supportive care of a physician.  “Transgender and gender-diverse children face many challenges in life, but like all children, they can grow into happy and healthy adults when supported and loved throughout their development,” according to AAP.

But physicians must be able to provide that support, and HB 2007 moving through the West Virginia Legislature makes it harder for them to do that. The bill has cleared the House and last week passed out of the Senate Health Committee.

The Legislation prevents gender-affirming surgery on minors.  Dr. Kacie Kidd, medical director of the WVU Gender and Sexual Development Multidisciplinary Clinic, told the committee last Thursday that procedure is not currently done in West Virginia, and she does not envision it in the future. There is no debate on that point.

However, the bill also prevents certain medical treatments that doctors believe are beneficial to the well-being of the child, including hormone treatment therapy and puberty blockers. Committee member, Senator Tom Takubo (R, Kanawha), who is a medical doctor, tried unsuccessfully to get that provision out of the bill, saying legislators were overreaching.

“Their suffering is made less by therapy,” he said. “I cannot, in good conscience, leave this section in the bill when we know the facts are this therapy does improve the functionality of a child. It decreases suicide rates. It helps with their mental health.”  However, the amendment failed.

Committee Chairman Michael Maroney (R, Marshall), who is also a medical doctor, criticized his fellow committee members for playing doctor, saying they were “mostly medically uneducated.”

Bill supporters believe they are protecting children, and some backers no doubt believe that gender dysphoria is not a real thing.  It is, and as the medical doctors on the committee warned, lawmakers are encroaching on an area of health care they may not completely understand.

As the AMA said, “We believe it is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate and limit the range of options physicians and families may consider when making decisions for pediatric patients.”

Majorities in this Republican legislature have made clear in other bills that they want parents to be empowered to make the decisions without government intervention that they believe are in the best interest of their children, ranging from what school they attend, what they are taught (or not taught) and whether or not they should be vaccinated.

If these same lawmakers are going to be consistent, they will leave it up to the parents to work through the difficult gender identity issues of their children with health care provider, not politicians.


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