State Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, spoke against a bill that would bar gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgery for transgender Georgia youth.

State Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, spoke against a bill that would bar gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgery for transgender Georgia youth.

Credit: Capitol Beat

ATLANTA — The Republican-controlled state Senate approved a bill Monday night that would bar certain gender-affirming treatments for youths under age 18. 

Sponsored by Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, Senate Bill 140, which passed 33-22 along party lines, would prohibit hospitals and doctors from providing either hormone-replacement therapy or gender-affirming surgeries to minors.  

“This is simply saying … we’re asking for the children to be 18 years or older before they make a decision that will alter their lives forever,” Summers said.  

The bill would allow the revocation of a hospital’s or physician’s license if the rules are violated, Summers said. It does allow for some exceptions, including for treatment of certain medical conditions and for those who are already on hormone-replacement therapy as of July 1, 2023.  

“What we’ve tried to do is strike a really good balance,” said Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, noting that the bill would allow transgender youth to continue with gender-affirming mental health and puberty blocker treatments but not irreversible hormone-replacement therapies or gender-affirming surgeries.  

Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, urged her colleagues to vote against the bill after describing the evolution of her thinking on care for transgender youth after learning that her then-daughter identifies as a male.  

Harrell said the medical standards of care for transgender youth have been recently rewritten with a heavy emphasis on providing young people with individualized care and necessary counseling before starting hormone-replacement therapy or undergoing gender-affirming surgery.  

“The problem I have with this bill is that It only addresses what we won’t do for our children,” Harrell said. “We need to focus on what we can do for these kids. … Doctors and mental-health professionals shouldn’t be in a hurry to treat with hormones and surgery. But banning them outright is not the answer, either.”  

Sen. Kim Jackson, D-Stone Mountain, described the negative effects youths who want but cannot get gender-affirming care experience, citing a study that found that 56% of transgender youth have attempted suicide.  

“This is about making sure that children can be well while they go through a season of transition,” Jackson said. “I ask you to vote ‘no’ on this not because you understand but because you have compassion in your hearts for what these children are experiencing.”  

Medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care for transgender children when the physician and family deem it appropriate.   

“There is strong consensus among the most prominent medical organizations worldwide that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate,” Dr. Moira Szilagyi, then-president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, wrote last year. “It can even be lifesaving.” 

The bill now moves to the state House for consideration.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.