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Texas Senate advances ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Trans youth and their advocates gather at the Texas State Capitol rotunda.
Aurora Berry
Texas Newsroom
Advocates gathered at the Capitol Monday as a public hearing on HB 1686, which would ban gender-affirming care for Texans under 18, took place in the Texas House Committee on Public Health.

If Senate Bill 14 were to become law, gender-affirming care practices for people under 18 years old would be banned in the state of Texas. This is the second proposal targeting transgender people to receive full approval from the Texas Senate this week.

The Texas Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban gender-affirming care for minors — a measure opposed by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and health care providers across the state.

The measure, SB 14, is sponsored by Sen. Donna Campbell, a Republican from New Braunfels. She calls her bill a “child protection act.”

“The children need counseling and love, not blades and drugs,” said Campbell.

Under SB 14 and its House companion bill, HB 1686, gender-affirming care practices for people under 18 would be banned in the state of Texas. The proposals would also stop public health insurance plans, like Medicaid and CHIP, from covering these services, along with revoking the medical licenses of anyone found to be providing such care.

Transition-related medical care for minors can include hormone replacement therapy, and puberty blockers to delay the onset of puberty. These practices are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the Texas Pediatric Society, and the American Board of Pediatrics as best practices for care.

Sen. Campbell, an emergency room physician, told lawmakers on Wednesday that transitioning-related medical care “is a cottage industry supported by insurance companies and Big Pharma."

“This is money that’s made off of the exploitation of vulnerable children with a mental illness,” Campbell said, calling gender dysphoria a "temporary mental delusion.”

Gender dysphoria is a mental health diagnosis that is defined as "distress experienced when gender identity and body are not congruent," according to the American Psychiatric Association.

The measure was amended on the Senate floor to allow people under 18 to continue transition-related medical care if they’d begun care 90 days prior to the bill going into effect.

Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said the amendment would help people.

However, two additional amendments from Menéndez failed. One amendment would have banned conversion therapies in the state.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, conversion therapies “are interventions purported to alter same-sex attractions or an individual’s gender expression with the specific aim to promote heterosexuality as a preferable outcome.” Research shows those types of interventions can be harmful for those undergoing them.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he was concerned SB 14 was the result of lawmakers thinking they know the absolute truth.

“What if you are wrong?” Whitmire asked Campbell, the bill’s author. “I hope everyone on the floor will pause for a moment and think about what if the majority of the vote gets it wrong today — It could actually be a life and death matter."

The measure still has to pass one more procedural vote in the Senate before it’s sent to the Texas House.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 10 states have either passed laws or policies that ban gender-affirming care for minors.

This is the second piece of legislation that targets transgender people to receive full approval from the Senate this week. On Tuesday, Texas senators approved a bill that would prohibit transgender college athletes from participating on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.