Health Care, Culture & the Family
Ban on child sex-change surgeries sent to governor
April 28, 2023
A ban on performing sex-change surgeries on children has won overwhelming approval in both chambers of the Oklahoma Legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.
“This is about protecting the most vulnerable among us from making a life-changing, irreversible decision using the mind of a child,” said state Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville.
Senate Bill 613, by Daniels and state Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, states, “A health care provider shall not knowingly provide gender transition procedures to any child.”
The legislation defines “gender transition procedures” to include surgical procedures that alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex, or the provision of puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.
Opponents dismissed concerns about long-term harm to children from transgender surgeries or hormone treatments.
State Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said prolonged use of puberty blockers has no significant negative impact.
“It does not cause lasting health problems,” Kirt said.
But a review by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence in England found that existing studies on the impacts of puberty blockers on children were “subject to bias” and the quality of results suggesting use of puberty blockers benefited gender-dysphoric children were of “very low certainty.”
State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, took issue with claims that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones have no significant negative impact.
“I’ve been in the pharmaceutical business for 30 years. I am an expert in these drugs and I have treated thousands of women and many men trying to balance those hormones,” Standridge said. “And I’ll tell you: These are not painless, harmless drugs. These are serious, life-altering, body-altering drugs.”
He also noted that mastectomies, commonly advocated for young girls who say they identify as boys, are not a minor procedure. Referencing the experience of a close family member who underwent a double mastectomy, he said, “That stays with them the rest of their life. That changed their life forever. They can never get that part of their body back.”
Standridge said some medical officials have been far too dismissive of medical and psychological reality.
“I was in a meeting with OU Medicine last year when this really came to home exactly how real this is,” Standridge said. “I’m sitting across the table from health professionals that talked so lightly about doing total mastectomies on small girls, young teen girls, which I have two of. It hit me like a brick. I just could not believe the cold, calculated comments from these folks about doing such a thing to a small girl.”
State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, dismissed those concerns.
“We just heard about some of the long-lasting mental impacts for folks who might have to undergo a double mastectomy,” Hicks said. “Imagine being born in a body that doesn’t reflect your identity and being trapped in that body with no way in which to cope with the mental anguish and distress of being forced to live that way with no other options but to leave the state of Oklahoma.”
She also claimed laws like SB 613 result in “a rise in suicidality” among gender-dysphoric youth.
Daniels said the known evidence indicates otherwise.
“Research does show that the suicide rates of those who go through these treatments and procedures is as bad, if not worse, than those who do not,” Daniels said. “And we have testimonies of those who go through these procedures and later in life regret that they have done so, but by then the harm is done.”
State Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, said fewer individuals will want to work as doctors in Oklahoma if they are barred from performing mastectomies and similar procedures on youth who identify as transgender.
“This law will jeopardize our own residency programs in Oklahoma,” Boren said. “It will jeopardize those that will sign up to become, go through the Oklahoma residency programs, and it will also jeopardize the actual program.”
State Sen. Shane Jett, R-Shawnee, suggested that may be a bonus benefit of the law.
“This is medical malpractice,” Jett said. “It’s mutilation of children. It’s sterilization of children. Any institution, medical doctor, or professional who says it’s okay to do this to children are morally bankrupt.”
Daniels said the delay in obtaining surgeries, puberty blockers, or cross-sex hormones until a child is 18 provides those children and their families time to access mental-health professionals “to work through the very real mental anguish that these children are facing.”
If mental-health treatment is obtained, she noted many individuals will no longer wish to undergo transgender surgeries by the time they are adults.
“Whatever the root is of their distress may be completely unrelated to their feeling of being transgender,” Daniels said.
SB 613 passed the Oklahoma Senate on a 37-8 vote. The measure, which previously passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 73-18 vote, now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt.