Texas Senate panel advances bill that would hinder transgender kids’ access to puberty blockers and hormone therapies

Protesters the Texas Capitol in 2021 rally against legislation limiting the rights of transgender Texans. (Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune, Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune)

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The Texas Senate will likely soon consider a bill that would bar physicians from providing transition-related treatments — like puberty blockers and hormone therapies — to transgender Texas kids.

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The Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday advanced Senate Bill 14 in a party-line vote, with all Republican members supporting the measure. A priority piece of legislation for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill would ban therapies that major medical groups recommend for kids with gender dysphoria, the distress someone can feel when their physical body does not align with their gender identity. SB 14 would also prohibit transition-related surgeries for minors, though medical experts say such procedures are rarely, if ever, performed on children.

The committee passed the measure in a 7-3 voice vote, but an eighth Republican registered a vote in support in writing, a legislative staffer later said. The vote came shortly after LGBTQ advocacy groups and hundreds of people rallied outside the Capitol against the bill and several others that would affect queer Texans. Several openly LGBTQ state representatives — including Democratic Reps. Jolanda Jones, Venton Jones, Christian Manuel and Jessica González — vowed to protect the community through their legislative work in the House.

“You have a friend and supporter in me,” Jolanda Jones said. “I am a part of the family and I will vote to protect us all because if you come for one of us, you come for all of us.”

[The Texas House has a record number of LGBTQ representatives as lawmakers face scores of bills focused on gender and sexuality]

The bill would have to get through the Senate and the House before it could become law. At least 10 of Texas’ 31 state senators have formally supported the bill.

SB 14 would also ban health care facilities that offer the targeted treatments from receiving public money and require the state medical board to revoke the license of physicians providing this care.

Puberty blockers are a type of medical treatment that delays puberty. They are provided to children who aren’t transgender and have been an approved medical treatment for kids for decades. SB 14 specifically bans them for transition-related purposes, though allows them as a treatment for what’s called precocious puberty — when puberty changes occur too soon in a child, such as those younger than 10.

The committee vote Monday came four days after lawmakers heard several hours of testimony about the bill. During the Thursday hearing, Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell of New Braunfels claimed that some medical professionals are causing children to doubt whether they are happy with their gender assigned at birth and are purposefully misguiding parents, creating what she called a “social contagion.” She said her bill is needed to protect families from this “cottage industry” preying on kids and their families.

“If there comes a time when a profession such as the medical profession cannot regulate itself to protect patients, protect children, then the government needs to step in,” Campbell said.

But a number of Texas medical groups, including the Texas Pediatric Society and Texas Psychological Association, testified against the bill last week.

“A blanket ban on these medical treatments is a very blunt instrument for the state to use and prohibits treatment options that are critical for the health and well-being of a transgender youth with gender dysphoria,” said Louis Appel, president of the Texas Pediatric Society.

The Texas Medical Association — which has previously opposed similar legislation — testified on the bill last week but did not take a position in support or opposition.

Major national medical associations, like the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, support providing trans youth with social support and health care treatments — which can include puberty blockers and hormone therapies — that affirm their gender identity.

During the Thursday hearing and throughout this year’s legislative session, the bill’s opponents and LGBTQ advocates have repeatedly said SB 14 and similar bills would hurt trans youths’ health — particularly their mental well-being.

“Research has consistently found that access to this medical care reduces the rates of suicide ideation and attempts in trans and nonbinary youth,” said Evelyn Smith, a social worker student and member of the National Association of Social Workers’ Texas Chapter. “This proposed legislation strips the rights of families to direct their own health care and jeopardizes the livelihood and mental health of youth. Medical decisions should be left in the hands of families and medical professionals, not the government.”

Disclosure: Texas Medical Association has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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