The Indiana Senate Committee on Health and Provider Services voted Wednesday to advance Senate Bill 480, which, if passed, would prohibit physicians and other medical practitioners from knowingly performing gender transition procedures on minors.
In an 8-3 vote, the committee members voted to move the bill to the Senate floor. The proposed bill would prohibit the administration of hormone therapy and puberty blockers, in addition to gender affirming surgery.
During his testimony, Sen. Tyler Johnson, R-District 14, who authored SB 480, said members of the committee have been working on this legislation for several years. He said the goal of the legislation is to help kids get appropriate counseling and mental health resources to “protect them from these life altering decisions until they are adults.”
“This bill is common sense public policy to protect Hoosier children from irreversible, unproven and life altering procedures,” Johnson said in his testimony.
Nathaniel and Beth Clawson, who are the parents of a 10-year-old transgender girl, voiced their opposition to the bill. Fighting back tears while speaking to the committee, Beth recounted the emotional turmoil surrounding her daughter’s struggle with gender identity.
“Puberty can be a difficult time for everyone, but my fear is that my daughter will be forced to go through male puberty after she has been living as herself–as a girl–since she was very small,” Beth said in her testimony. “Without age-appropriate medical care as recommended by doctors, I fear that she will take her own life.”
Nathaniel added if the bill passes, he and his family will leave Indiana due to safety and medical concerns for their daughter.
Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-District 40, opposed SB 480 and discussed possible amendments to the bill, such as taking out language regarding surgeries. However, the committee did not vote on these amendments. Yoder said the parents within her district are distressed by the legislation.
“This is devastating for them,” Yoder said. “We should all be devastated by this kind of legislation.”
Troy Castor, a representative from Riley Children’s Hospital and senior vice president of governmental affairs at IU Health, voiced her opposition to the bill stating it interferes with parents’ right to choose quality and potentially lifesaving care for their child. Castor also said Riley Children’s Health does not perform gender affirming care surgeries on anyone under 18-years-old.
Additionally, Rachel Katzenellenbogen, a physician within the Riley Children’s Hospital Gender Health Program, said in her testimony the gender care clinic works with parents to provide treatments based on national and international medical based guidelines. She said limiting social support provided by clinics could result in mental health struggles for patients.
“The treatments we offer at Riley improve the lives of youth and their family,” Katzenellenbogen said. “Without this program transgender youth in Indiana will not get the care they need, and sadly we fear this may result in some choosing to take their own life.”
According to a December 2022 Trevor Project survey, 54% of transgender and nonbinary youth in Indiana reported having seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Jannette Cooper, a Partners for Ethical Care representative, testified in support of SB 480. She said she has spoken to parents who have been told the only two options for children struggling with gender dysmorphia are suicide or gender transition. Cooper said there are more options for parents than suicide or gender transition.
“Stopping normal puberty, administering wrong sex hormones and removing healthy body parts should never be an option,” Cooper said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana organized a “pack the Statehouse” event, urging citizens to rally outside of the Indiana Statehouse during the committee hearing–the cheers of which were audible from within the hearing room. On Feb. 20, the ACLU of Indiana organized a similar rally at the Indiana statehouse in opposition to House Bill 1608. The proposed bill would prohibit school employees from providing instruction on human sexuality to students in kindergarten through third grade.
In a series of tweets following the bill’s advancement, the ACLU of Indiana urged their followers to contact Indiana representatives.
“Indiana legislators are risking the lives of young people by forcing their way into family decision-making, a fundamental right which has traditionally been protected against government intrusion,” one tweet stated.