TN GOP leaders propose ‘strongest legislation in the nation’ on care for transgender youth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — New legislation went down the pike on Wednesday on care for transgender children in Tennessee.

“We will make performing any type of irreversible surgery or medical procedure on a minor a prohibited medical practice, if it is based on gender identity,” said Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson ( R-Franklin).

Johnson, alongside House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), introduced Bill 0001 and Senate Bill 0001, calling it ‘the strongest legislation in the country‘ on the care of transgender children.

It focuses primarily on punishing doctors who administer transgender care to minors rather than the minors themselves.

“There are no criminal aspects or civil penalty aspects applied to the child on whom these procedures are performed,” Johnson said.

The bill does three main things:

  • First, it would allow a child to “bring a civil action” — a lawsuit — against a medical provider or their parent if that parent “consented to the conduct that constituted the violation on behalf of the minor.”
  • Second, it would give the Attorney General the power to take legal action against a health care provider if that provider knowingly violates the law. Penalties could include revocation of any profit made from the surgery as well as a $25,000 fine.
  • Third, if a doctor breaks the potential law, they “require urgent action” to potentially revoke their license.

If this law is passed by the General Assembly next year, it would prohibit health care providers from performing medical procedures if they “allow a minor to identify themselves with an identity inconsistent with the minor’s gender “. In the legislation, the term “medical procedure” includes both surgery and “prescribing, administering or dispensing any drug or device to a human being”.

Thus, under this definition, it would be illegal for a medical professional to prescribe hormone blockers from the moment the law potentially comes into force.

While most Republicans are for the legislation, most Democrats oppose it.

“If the Republican Party, with its vast power and political clout in Tennessee, wants to prioritize a non-issue, that’s their prerogative,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said.

One of the main concerns is that this legislation will eventually lead to ban transgender care for everyone in Tennessee, not just for kids.

“Well, I’ve waived what kind of discriminatory legislation my fellow Republicans will pass or introduce,” Clemmons said.

While it’s impossible to say what the future holds, Johnson says expansion isn’t something he’s interested in.

“In Tennessee, with a few exceptions, you become an emancipated adult at age 18,” Johnson said. “At this point, if you choose to modify your body in any way, you should be able to do that. It’s a totally different matter when it comes to children.

Law comes after conservative commentator accused Vanderbilt Medical Center to perform transgender surgeries for profit. The school denied these allegations.

After Johnson and Lamberth formally filed the legislation Wednesday morning, News 2 reached out to representatives for Vanderbilt to see if they wanted to update their comments, and they opted not to.

“Hopefully there won’t be a legal challenge to the legislation,” Johnson said. “For me, I can just tell you there’s overwhelming support for doing this in Tennessee.”

Johnson’s hopes could be dashed.

The ACLU of Tennessee issued a statement on the matter, writing, in part, “We will bring the full strength of our organization to bear against this legislation.”

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The statement, in its entirety, reads as follows:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee politicians introduced legislation that would prohibit doctors and families from making the health care decisions necessary to support transgender youth.

Numerous studies have shown that providing supportive and gender-affirming care saves young people’s lives by significantly reducing depression and suicidal ideation.

The following can be attributed to Henry Seaton, transgender justice advocate for the ACLU of Tennessee:

“Denying health care to young transgender people can put their lives at risk. Research shows it contributes to depression, isolation, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. However, transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a significant decrease in suicidal thoughts and attempts, and a significant increase in self-esteem.

Everyone should have access to the health care they need to survive and thrive. This legislation deprives families and healthcare professionals of the ability to provide life-saving care to transgender youth. Trans youth deserve love, respect, and dignity, and the ACLU of Tennessee is deeply committed to protecting trans youth from physical and emotional harm. We will engage the full force of our organization in the fight against this legislation.