LGBT advocates have denounced the bill as ignoring science and medical authorities, further marginalizing vulnerable youth.
“It is reprehensible that some lawmakers continue to use trans children as pawns in their reelection schemes,” said James Knapp, board chair of TransOhio. “HB 454 flies in the face of evidence-based best practices and current standards of care.”
The SAFE Act is backed nationwide by the Family Research Council, a conservative religious group that promotes a range of anti-LGBT policies. Copycat bills have been introduced in about half of the states, though many of those bills died in in legislative committees.
Arkansas passed the bill in early 2021 but legal challenges halted its implementation. A similar bill was unsuccessfully proposed in Ohio in 2020.
Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign state legislative director, characterized the SAFE Act as “a reckless, despicable attack on the LGBTQ+ community.”
“No one should be denied best-practice medical care simply because legislators don’t like or understand them,” she said. “Decisions about what kind of care is suitable for a particular young person should be made by the young person and their parents, in consultation with medical experts.”
In his sponsor testimony, Click suggested gender dysphoria is caused by “multiple mental health factors,” such as “anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, autism, schizophrenia, low self-esteem, bullying and more.” He also claimed it’s an escape mechanism for sexual abuse victims.
Click denounced gender affirmation therapy as “based on intimidation, fear, manipulation, and isolation,” and blamed its growth in part on the “profitability of gender affirming care.”
“It shouldn’t require an advanced education to recognize that prescribing puberty blockers and cross sex hormones and placing a child on a path to surgical intervention should not be the first or preferred course of intervention,” he said. “Watchful waiting is the nonjudgmental therapy that focuses on the individual rather than an ideology. The therapist neither affirms nor disaffirms the child’s feelings but rather listens and learns. The therapist allows the child to describe themselves and why they feel certain ways.”
Equality Ohio said the bill would create a precedent for politicians to create arbitrary restrictions on essential medical care, and vowed to fight it.
“Equality Ohio believes that people of all genders and ages should have access to fact-based medical care that allows them to live as the best and most authentic version of themselves,” said Alana Jochum, the group’s executive director. “Enough is enough. All youth in Ohio deserve to have access to medical care, and transgender youth are no exception.”
Click, in his testimony, said those under age 18 aren’t considered responsible adults capable of making many other decisions, so they shouldn’t be allowed to decide on gender transition either.
“The purpose of this bill is not nor has ever been to make a moral judgement or as some have alleged, to deny anyone healthcare or civil rights,” he said. “It has been to ensure that children receive appropriate, ethical and safe healthcare as well as to protect their right to make these choices until the time that they are able to legally and rationally consider the risks and rewards.”