Multiple state legislatures debated bills regarding transgender issues in the few first weeks of 2024, with the focus being on restroom access, sex-change surgeries for minors and parental rights.

Many lawmakers in 2023 introduced and passed legislation prohibiting minors from getting transgender medical procedures, while Washington state passed a law allowing children to flee to a different state to obtain hormones and sex change surgeries without parental consent. The issue is set to take center stage again in 2024, and states including Utah, South Carolina, Missouri and Maine all debated bills on transgender ideology on Wednesday.

Utah elected officials in the state House Business and Labor Committee voted to move a bill forward that would create a legal definition for male and female, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Female would be defined as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is of the general type that functions to produce ova” and a male as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is of the general type that functions to fertilize the ova of a female.”

The bill, authored by Republican state Rep. Kera Birkeland, was made public on Jan. 11 and would also limit access to women’s restrooms, locker rooms and domestic violence shelters to female users, according to the Tribune.

“I think we’re here to solve concerns,” Birkeland said during the committee hearing, according to the Tribune, “and I don’t think we wait until an 8-year-old is raped or molested by a predator. I think we act in good faith, with respect, finding accommodations that show compassion all along the way.”

The South Carolina House of Representatives voted 82-23 to pass a bill barring transgender medical procedures for minors, including sex-change surgeries, puberty blockers and hormones, according to News 19, a local CBS News affiliate. The “Help Not Harm” Bill would also prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to fund these same procedures for adults and limit Medicaid’s ability to cover these procedures for those under 26.

Republicans argued that the bill would protect children, as well as prevent taxpayers from paying for highly controversial transgender medical procedures, according to News 19. Democrats, however, claimed that the bill violates the privacy between a patient and their doctor.

“This treatment is the same as anything else and so for us to sit here, to have 124 legislators, none of which are medical doctors, dictate in a statute what a standard of care is, is reckless and it’s wrong,” Democratic state Rep. Seth Rose said, according to the outlet.

Similarly, Missouri lawmakers in the state’s House Emerging Issues Committee held a near nine-hour hearing on several bills, one of which would amend the state’s law to remove the August 28, 2027, expiration date on a law banning transgender medical procedures for minors, according to the Missouri Independent, a local media outlet. The other would allow doctors to opt out of treating patients, both adult and minors, who request transgender procedures.

The Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE Act, was passed in June 2023 and barred doctors from performing sex-change surgeries on children under 18, according to the text. Republican lawmakers are also looking to strike another section allowing minor patients who were receiving treatment before the bill was passed to continue doing so.

Another bill, which was introduced by Republican state Rep. Brad Hudson, creates an exception for Missouri doctors to decline to perform transgender procedures. Leandra Morgenthaler, a medical student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that she has felt attacked due to her Catholic faith and her position on the issue, according to the Missouri Independent.

“My classmates who share my beliefs and I have been told we should not intersect faith and medicine because of our religion,” Morgenthaler said, according to the outlet, “that anyone who has faith beliefs like ours are obviously having the wrong opinion.”

Maine lawmakers in the state House Judiciary Committee were set to debate a piece of legislation that would have allowed minors to flee to the state to obtain transgender medical procedures, including surgery, if their parents or guardians did not consent, according to The Maine Wire. The discussion was delayed until Jan. 25 after Republican state Rep. David Haggan’s motion to dismiss resulted in a 5-5 tie.

Democratic state Rep. Laurie Osher introduced the bill in 2023 after California passed similar legislation, according to The Maine Wire. Republicans, however, expressed concerns that the bill was little more than the legalization of kidnapping.

“This bill authorizes the kidnapping and massacring of children from other states without parental consent,” Haggan argued, according to The Maine Wire.

“The state should never place itself above a loving parent and irreparably destroy the reproductive health of a minor child,” Republican state Rep. Katrina Smith said, according to the outlet.

Kate Anderson on January 20, 2024

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