Health Care , Family & Community

Ray Carter | September 27, 2022

Restriction sought on puberty blockers, trans surgeries

Ray Carter

Oklahoma lawmakers will consider legislation this week that restricts funding to state entities that provide puberty blockers or referrals for transgender surgery to children.

“Funding for childhood mental and behavioral health issues is a critical need not only in Oklahoma, but across the country,” said state Rep. Randy Randleman, a Eufaula Republican who is certified as a teacher, counselor, principal, psychometrist, superintendent, and licensed psychologist. “At the same time, some of the ways these issues are being addressed do more harm than good for the child in the long run. Unproven, controversial, unchangeable hormonal procedures, including gender reassignment, at a young age can do irreparable physical, mental, and emotional damage to a child. Taxpayer dollars should not be going to facilities that are promoting and performing these procedures.”

“I’m thankful for language in this bill that protects children from the practice of mutilation through gender reassignment medical treatment,” said state Rep. Kevin West, R-Oklahoma City. “This unbelievably harmful practice cannot be reversed and has lasting physical and psychological consequences that can damage these children for the rest of their lives.”

The University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital operates the Roy G. Biv Program, which the organization says will provide children “gender-affirming scope of treatment” that includes “pausing puberty to further explore gender,” “managing gender-affirming hormone therapy,” and “helping find surgeons who perform gender-affirming surgeries.”

During a recent meeting with a group of lawmakers, legislators report that hospital officials acknowledged referring five Oklahoma youth for “top” surgeries that can involve the removal of healthy breast tissue for females wishing to identify as males, or breast implants for males wishing to identify as females.

The Oklahoma Legislature is scheduled to reconvene in a special legislative session on Sept. 28. The session will focus on appropriating the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

OU Children’s Hospital could receive millions in ARPA funds during the session. Some lawmakers have worried that the funds will, at least indirectly, help fund the Roy G. Biv Program.

Late on Monday, Sept. 26, lawmakers filed a new version of House Bill 1007XX. That legislation provides an additional $108 million appropriation in ARPA funds to the University Hospitals Authority, including $39.4 million earmarked “to expand the capacity of behavioral health care for the children of this state.” But the bill also includes language to restrict funding of life-altering transgender treatments for youth.

The bill states that “no monies” may be spent by the University Hospitals Authority “for the benefit of any facility owned by the University Hospitals Authority or University Hospitals Trust performing ‘gender reassignment medical treatment’” on any patient younger than 18 years of age.

The legislation defines “gender reassignment medical treatment” to include “any health care to facilitate the transitioning of a patient’s assigned gender identity on the patient’s birth certificate, to the gender identity experienced and defined by the patient,” including “interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics,” “interventions to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity,” and “medical therapies and medical intervention used to treat gender dysphoria.”

Randleman said the legislation will not ban medically necessary procedures for individuals born with ambiguous genitalia, incomplete genitalia, or both male and female anatomy. It also would not apply to services provided to individuals born with a genetically or biochemically verifiable disorder of sex development (DSD).

“Individuals needing medically necessary treatment due to an anatomical or genetic issue will still be able to get that treatment,” Randleman said. “This bill is simply meant to limit the support, through appropriated ARPA dollars, of facilities providing elective gender reassignment procedures for children.”

The legislation was condemned by Freedom Oklahoma, an organization that lobbies for transgender causes.

The group declared on Twitter, “We’re sad and we’re angry at this pandering to extremists and political ambitions. Which comes at the expense of the health and well being of, not only trans kids, but of all people who rely on the OU Health system for care.”

State Rep. Mauree Turner, an Oklahoma City Democrat who identifies as nonbinary, also criticized the bill, calling it an “attack on trans youth.”

“We are fighting for our lives against a governmental machine,” Turner tweeted.

However, a growing number of individuals who have undergone hormonal and surgical procedures to alter their appearance to that of the opposite sex have publicly discussed their subsequent regret.

In a recent interview with the New York Post, Chloe Cole of California discussed her transgender experience and subsequent regret. Cole decided she was a transgender male at an early age and was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone by age 13. When she was 15, Cole underwent a double mastectomy. By age 16, she regretted that decision and now lives as a woman again. Cole is now 17.

“I was failed by the system,” Cole told the Post. “I literally lost organs.”

Because the topics that can be considered during a special session are limited, West said lawmakers cannot take broader action at this time. But he indicated that bans on puberty-blockers and transgender surgery for minors will likely be considered during the regular 2023 legislative session.

“The radical Left may be making a national push to try and allow the mutilation of our children to become mainstream,” West said, “but here in Oklahoma we have to stand up for our kids and say enough is enough.”

[For more stories about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]

NOTE: This story has been update since publication to include additional financial details from HB 1007XX.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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