". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Ohio Governor Walks Back Health, Safety Protections on Transgender Industry

February 9, 2024

A Republican governor has weakened proposed health, safety, and ethical protections for Ohioans who identify as transgender, increasing the speed at which the transgender industry can begin cross-sex hormones or surgeries. His administration said it watered down the requirements based on “assurances” from the transgender industry that it already self-polices its own actions in an ethical manner. Yet the state is still being sued by the ACLU for protecting those under the age of 18 from transgender procedures.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) rolled back proposed regulations asking anyone struggling with gender dysphoria under the age of 21 to take six months of counseling before undergoing cross-sex hormone injections or undergoing transgender surgeries, such as a double mastectomy, orchiectomy, phalloplasty, or vaginoplasty. The new rules announced on Wednesday apply only to minors, who may not be subjected to transgender surgical procedures, and also greatly expand the people who can offer such “counseling” beyond psychologists to include nurses and social workers. “The revised quality standard rules are now applicable only to care for minors,” stated a memo from the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The revised guidelines no longer require the transgender industry’s actions to be reviewed by “medical ethics professionals.” The DeWine administration dropped the needs for ethical oversight of the transgender industry based on “assurances from” the transgender industry “that providers already appropriately engage medical ethics professionals.”

“We said from the get go these EO’s were hollow & now there’s no doubt,” said Aaron Baer, president of the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV).

A press release from the governor’s office said these “changes reflect his focus on these priorities while reflecting the public comments received by the agencies.”

The public comment period on the rule, which ended January 19, elicited 3,900 comments spanning 6,800 pages — many from transgender activists and left-wing foes. Seven Democratic state senators asserted in their public comment that “the rules will lead to poor health outcomes and possible loss of life.”

Transgender activists praised DeWine’s reversal. The executive director of the LGBTQ pressure group Equality Ohio thanked DeWine for his “responsiveness” to their lobbying. Kathryn Poe, a researcher at the left-wing Policy Matters Ohio (and who has noted, “My wife is a trans woman”), credited the transgender movement’s mobilization of its activist core for the change. “To everyone who submitted public comments — your voice really did matter,” said Poe.

DeWine said he rolled back the regulations to create “consensus.”

The governor introduced the regulations after vetoing H.B. 68, a combination of the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act (SAFE) and the Save Women’s Sports Act shortly after Christmas. H.B. 68 bans the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone injections, and gender mutilation surgeries to anyone under the age of 18; prohibits men from competing against women in sports; prevents courts from denying or limiting custody to a parent who refuses to “affirm” their child’s transgender identity; and refuses to fund minors’ transgender procedures through Medicaid.

DeWine said he introduced the proposed rules, because “I think it’s a good way to take this issue off the table” and “talk about other things.” Yet both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly voted to override DeWine’s veto last month, making Ohio the 23rd state to protect minors.

Although Equality Ohio cited the “critical importance” of giving the transgender industry a free hand to operate on adults, it prodded DeWine “to rescind the draft rules in their entirety.” Such requirements as “data collection … puts transgender people at increased risk of continued discrimination.” Poe said the request that the transgender industry report specific health data is “very, very clearly a malicious attempt to create a narrative about trans people.” 

The American Civil Liberties Union announced it will sue to block the implementation of H.B. 68, which will take effect in April. “HB68 is not only cruel; it violates the Ohio Constitution and must be challenged,” said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio. Levenson did not expound on how the bill supposedly violates the state constitution, although critics of last summer’s Issue 1 contended that the controversial amendment — which guarantees all “individuals” (not “adults”) the right to make “reproductive decisions” — would create a “right” for minors to seek transgender procedures. Equality Ohio interim Executive Director Siobhan Boyd-Nelson referred to the amendment opaquely, saying, “Ohio voters have consistently expressed their support for bodily autonomy.” Democrats in the Ohio state Senate likewise invoked the measure, which state media agencies insisted did not apply to transgender procedures.

The primary sponsor of H.B. 68, Rep. Gary Click (R-88), said the lawsuit came as no surprise, since the ACLU has “a storied history of inventing fictitious rights while opposing actual rights such as those enshrined in the SAFE Act.” Children, he said, have a right to grow up with their natural sex hormones and body parts intact. “Parents have a right to be free from counselors who groom their children without consent. Families should never fear losing custody of their children for not consenting to superstitious gender ideology.”

“It is no wonder so many refer to it as the Anti-Civil Liberties Union,” said Click.

“This is a lesson for DeWine and every elected official. No matter how much you try to compromise with the Left, it’s never enough,” said Baer. “They want to continue their experimental trans medicine, unregulated.”

Levenson’s colleague, Chase Strangio, said the ACLU would sue, because such procedures are “safe [and] effective.” Yet the American College of Pediatricians released a report citing numerous studies around the world showing trans-identifying people showed elevated mental health concerns after so-called “gender-affirming care.”

“A 2021 comprehensive data review of all 3,754 trans-identified adolescents in US military families over 8.5 years showed that cross-sex hormone treatment leads to increased use of mental health services and psychiatric medications, and increased suicidal ideation/attempted suicide. When transgender-identifying adolescents who were using gender-affirming pharmaceuticals (963) were evaluated separately, their use of mental health care services did not change but their use of psychotropic medications did increase,” said the report.

Click said people struggling with gender dysphoria “deserve to know the truth. Gender dysphoria never happens in a vacuum. There is always causation. When you treat the symptoms rather than the cause you are not providing care but rather compounding the harm.”

“Follow science, not slogans,” said Click.

The remaining protections will be reviewed by the Ohio Common Sense Initiative.

Readers may comment on these rules by emailing MH-SOT-GTC1-rules@mha.ohio.gov and to the CSI Office at CSIPublicComments@governor.ohio.gov until next Wednesday, February 14, at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.