West Virginia Legislature Neuters, Then Passes, Bill to Protect Minors from Gender Transitions
The West Virginia legislature on Saturday passed a bill (H.B. 2007) to prohibit gender transition procedures on minors — after amending the bill to render it nearly ineffectual.
H.B. 2007 states that “a physician may not provide irreversible gender reassignment surgery or gender altering medication to a person who is under eighteen years of age.” Prohibited practices include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender transition surgeries. Under preexisting law, any violation of this prohibition would be referred “to the appropriate licensing authority” for enforcement.
The West Virginia House voted 84-10 to pass H.B. 2007 on February 3. The West Virginia Senate voted 30-2 to pass H.B. 2007 on Friday, March 10 (one Democrat joined Republicans).
But before the Senate passed it, they adopted (20-12) an amendment creating a massive exception for gender transition hormone treatments. Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo (R) introduced the amendment from the Senate floor late Friday night, just before the final vote.
Takubo’s amendment permitted “pubertal modulating and hormonal therapy for severe gender dysphoria” if certain requirements are met. Two medical and mental health providers must diagnose the minor with “severe gender dysphoria” and “express in written opinions” that the treatment is “medically necessary,” and the minor, minor’s parents, and minor’s physician must “agree in writing with the treatment.” These requirements provide merely a paperwork barrier to gender transition hormone treatments.
“While I appreciate the legislators’ effort to address the problem of performing the procedures on minors,” FRC’s director of the Center for Family Studies Dr. Jennifer Bauwens told The Washington Stand, “this doesn’t fix [the] systemic problem in the psychologic profession.”
Psychology will “dictate, through professional ethics and training, that gender affirmation is the way to go,” Bauwens explained. “It’s going to be hard for a minor to get an opinion that’s different than affirmation. So, right of the bat, we’re losing the battle to protect kids. Few and far between are the mental health providers who are willing to stand up and help kids.”
The amendment requires that both diagnosing physicians have “relevant training in the diagnosis and treatment of severe gender dysphoria in adolescents.” Bauwens noted, “usually people in that sector are going to be transgender advocates.”
Bauwens also critiqued the requirement that physicians state in writing that the treatment is “medically necessary.” “That’s a false premise,” she said. “We don’t even have the scientific literature to establish a link between these gender-affirming procedures and self-harm. To make an exception for psychiatric populations is not helpful. We do have evidence that this is causing harm to minors, both their physiology and their psychology.”
The amendment also requires physicians to prescribe the lowest “dosage necessary to treat the psychiatric condition and not for purposes of gender alteration” (the House amended this last term to “gender transition”). It’s not entirely clear what this provision is supposed to do, because those who “treat” the psychiatric condition of severe gender dysphoria with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are aiming to bring about a gender transition.
The state House concurred (88-10) with the Senate’s amendment on Saturday afternoon, but they added one of their own, in which the Senate concurred (30-2) on Saturday evening. The bill now heads to the desk of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R), who switched to the Republican party in 2017. In the event of a veto, a simple majority in both chambers is needed to override.
It’s unclear if Takubo changed his position at the last minute or simply chose that moment to gain his point. Either way, Senate Majority Leader Takubo, at the last minute, sabotaged his own party’s effort to restrict gender transition procedures on minors. West Virginians will likely not have a chance to pass a better bill until at least the next legislative session.
It could be that Takubo felt pressure from the West Virginia medical community, including his own employer. Takubo is a physician (specializing in lung disease) at the Charleston Area Medical Center, part of the rapidlyexpanding Vandalia Health network, which provides pediatric endocrinology services that could include gender transition procedures. Other hospital networks in the state, such as West Virginia University Medical Children’s Hospital are more explicit about providing gender transition procedures. This would continue the trend, witnessed in other overwhelmingly conservative states like South Dakota, of large hospital networks who provide lucrative gender transition procedures to minors leading the opposition to legislative efforts to protect minors from these harmful, irreversible procedures.
However it came about, it seems that Takubo was persuaded by the transgender lobby’s most-repeated talking point, that youth who identify as transgender are more likely to commit suicide because they cannot obtain gender transition procedures. According to The Associated Press: “During a speech on the Senate floor late Friday night, Takubo referenced 17 peer-reviewed studies showing a significant decrease in the rates of suicide ideation and suicide attempts among youth with severe gender dysphoria who have access to medication therapy.”
Bauwens responded, “There are no studies that show, over time, that there is a reduction in ideation and self-harm.” Some snapshot studies appear to show it, “but you can pick apart the methodology,” she said. “The methods needed to make that causal link don’t exist in the transgender literature.”
Specifically, Bauwens explained, “Because the studies aren’t long-term, it’s hard to know what effect or placebo effect these treatments can have. That’s a basic thing you would [want] when testing the results of an intervention, and we don’t have the data to establish that.”
By substantially watering down its bill to protect minors from gender transition procedures, the West Virginia legislature wandered further from what scientific data has proven to be beneficial for children.
If Governor Justice signs H.B. 2007 into law, West Virginia would become the fifth state in 2023 to enact a measure — of any strength — restricting gender transition procedures on children, following Utah, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.