COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of South Carolina Republican lawmakers are looking to join a handful of other states that have passed restrictions on certain medical care for transgender children.
A Republican-led Senate panel on Thursday held the first of what is slated to be a much longer two-part public hearing next Wednesday, gathering testimony from South Carolina doctors and transgender adults, some of whom testified that the legislation negatively and unfairly targets transgender and nonbinary people.
One Senate proposal — S.623 — filed by Senate Medical Affairs Committee Chairman Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, would restrict a person’s ability to change their gender on their birth certificate from only male to female or vice versa. Another bill — S. 627, also filed by Verdin with more than 20 co-sponsors — would prohibit children from receiving any type of gender reassignment procedure, including puberty-blocking drugs.
“This (bill) doesn’t prevent anybody from having a gender reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy as an adult,” said state Sen. Josh Kimbrell, R-Spartanburg, a co-sponsor of S. 627. “It is about protecting the innocence of kids, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Gender-affirming care, including reassignment surgery, is not expressly banned in South Carolina. However, doctors testified Thursday that medical providers choose not to perform surgery on minors — leading Democratic Sens. Brad Hutto, of Orangeburg, and Kevin Johnson, of Clarendon, to question the point of the bill.
“I think I’ve heard you say that no one in South Carolina is currently performing this procedure on minors, correct,” Johnson asked a pediatrician. “Makes me wonder why we’re even here.”
An increasing number of Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country have introduced and passed copy-cat legislation that would restrict gender affirming care for minors — a push that contrasts with the opinions of several major medical associations, namely the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Advocates for the transgender community said the push is nothing more than political and, if passed, could restrict how doctors care for their patients and hurt the mental health of many trans youth.
Greg Green, a trans man, said though he lost his job as a police officer while transitioning as an adult, it was the right decision to make.
“Now, I’m a parent who has a child who’s 11-years-old, and I know what’s best for my son,” Green said. “So I urge that you vote no on bill 627, and allow parents and households to continue making decisions that are best for them.”
Columbia pediatrician Dr. Deborah Greenhouse told senators Thursday that she’s recently seen children who have attempted suicide because of depression, anxiety and isolation, which she said plagues transgender youth as they go through puberty.
“I referred these adolescents for counseling and, in some cases, referred them for specific gender-affirming care,” Greenhouse said, adding that care for young children does not include medication or surgery. “It includes listening to, educating and supporting the child and family.”
Speaking in favor of the bill Thursday included two adults who had undergone gender reassignment surgery and said they later regretted it. Both testified they got the procedure after they turned 18 and neither received the procedure in South Carolina.
One doctor also spoke in support of the bill, orthopedic surgeon Richard McCain, who argued puberty blockers mentally harms children.
“Up until age 7, (my son) thought he was basically Ironman, and was always telling me he was Ironman because that’s what children do, they think that they have all this imagination and energy,” Kimbrell said. “My point is that under a certain age, kids do not know what they want to be, and society has an obligation to protect the innocence of those kids.”
But Greenhouse said Kimbrell was conflating two different issues.
“With all respect, it’s not about thinking you’re Ironman,” Greenhouse said. “I have two daughters, and one of them was convinced that she was every single one of the Disney princesses when she was little. That is not what we’re talking about here; it is not the same thing.”