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Ohio's Republican governor vetoes bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has vetoed a bill that would ban transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care and prohibit transgender girls from participating in female athletics.

DeWine announced on Friday he has rejected House Bill 68 — the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation” and the “Save Women’s Sports” acts — after the Statehouse passed the legislation on Dec. 13. However, the bill could still go into effect if Ohio’s House of Representatives and Senate override the governor’s veto with a three-fifths vote.

“Were I to sign House Bill 68, or were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most: their parents,” said DeWine of his decision to veto the bill.

The language in H.B. 68 would have barred medical professionals from providing treatment known as gender-affirming care, which include puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, to trans children in the state. DeWine said he made his decision after visiting five children’s hospitals and speaking with families whose children undergo that treatment.

“They told me their child is alive only because they received care,” said DeWine. “These are gut-wrenching decisions that should be made by parents and should be informed by teams of doctors who are advising them. These are parents who have watched their children suffer for years.”

Still, the governor noted on Friday he will proceed with drafting administrative rules to ban gender-affirming surgery on minors. DeWine said he is also instructing his administration to collect data on trans health care and to combat clinics that don’t provide adequate mental health counseling.

Nick Lashutka, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association president, testified the state’s children’s hospitals “do not perform any surgeries on minors for the condition of gender dysphoria.” Still, the bill bans physicians from performing reconstructive surgery on a minor. H.B. 68 also includes a grandfather clause that permits a physician “under specified circumstances” to continue prescribing puberty-blocking drugs to a minor after the bill’s effective date.

Those in favor of H.B. 68 have argued that Ohioans under the age of 18 are incapable of providing the informed consent necessary to make the decisions to receive this care. Speaker of the Ohio House Jason Stephens (R) said he is disappointed the governor rejected the legislation.

“The bill sponsors, and The House, have dedicated nearly three years to get the bill right — to empower parents and protect children,” said Stephens. “It was passed by veto-proof majorities in each chamber. We will certainly discuss as a caucus and take the appropriate next steps.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) echoed Stephens and said “permanent medical decisions concerning gender should not be made when you are a child.”

“We want to be sure children aren’t being misled, parents aren’t being misled, children aren’t being harmed,” said Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. “Some of these decisions can be irreversible and so we need to make sure there are protections in place.”

Ohio House of Representatives Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) called the measure “discriminatory” and said the veto is “a much needed sign of support for Ohio’s LGBTQ+ children and the community overall.”

“I appreciate that Governor DeWine took his time to listen to the individuals most impacted by this discriminatory legislation,” said Russo. “It sends a much needed message of support to Ohio’s LGBTQ+ youth that they and their families are seen and heard and deserve the fundamental freedom like everyone else to feel safe in their own communities.”

Lawmakers had amended H.B. 68 to include House Bill 6, to prohibit trans girls from taking part in female athletics and override the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s trans student-athlete policy. H.B. 68 allows an athlete to sue for relief or damages if they are “deprived” of an athletic opportunity by a trans girl.

“[The bill] says that we believe that it’s a very important part of development and it needs to be something that girls shouldn’t be participating in competitive sports with boys,” said Stephens.

Ohio Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said the legislation is “yet another solution in search of a problem fanning the flame of the culture wars.”

“The bill reverses the equitable access for trans students established through Ohio High School Athletic Association,” said Antonio. “Denying this type of youth development to only some students is discriminatory and demonstrates to Ohio’s youngest citizens that not all people are treated equally.”

A similar measure in Idaho was rejected on Thursday by a federal judge, who ruled that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process give parents the right to get gender-affirming care for their children.

Ohio’s children’s hospitals have served about 3,300 individuals throughout the past 10 years whose first appointment at a gender clinic took place when they were under the age of 18, Lashutka said. The average age at their first appointment was 16 years old. Of those 3,300 individuals, only 7% were prescribed a puberty blocker and only 35% were prescribed hormones.

“While the majority of patients are never prescribed medication as minors, those who do take medication consider it lifesaving and crucial,” said Lashutka. “It is a dangerous precedent for government to dictate when medication is appropriate in pediatrics.”

As for sports, a total of 19 trans girls — 10 in middle school, nine in high school — have participated in girls’ sports at Ohio’s schools since the policy was implemented eight years ago, including the six trans high school students taking part during the 2022-23 school year.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association, which estimates that 400,000 athletes in grades 7-12 participate in Ohio’s sanctioned sports each school year, asserted its policy is effective in protecting the integrity of girls’ sports while also providing participation opportunities for trans students.

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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