It happened late last week. The Kentucky Senate approved House Bill 470 (after including Senate Bill 150 in it). This new bill states “that the provision of gender transition services to a person under the age of 18 years by a health care provider or mental health care provider is unethical and unprofessional conduct.”
This bill will “prohibit the use of public funds for gender transition services” and has penalties for insurance companies, school counselors, and other public employees who assist in any way in such services. Courts are even forbidden to change a person’s name after a gender transition. Medicaid coverage is denied.
If enacted, according to Bruce Maples of Forward Kentucky, this is the cruelest anti-trans bill yet seen in the United States. While we agree that children should be cautious and have parental support in considering gender transition, it is also true that many of those pursuing gender transformation have known well before age 18 that their body did not match their gender. (See “At What Age Does Gender Identity Develop” on Medicine Net, 8-18-21)
Dr Keisa Fallin-Bennett (MD, MPH), a graduate of Murray State, a former student of mine, and now an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Kentucky, recently wrote Senator Jason Howell and his committee colleagues urging them to table this bill until they could learn more about this issue.
Dr. Bennett told our senators that “if medical treatment is stopped for children and teens, there will be an increase in death by suicide. ... Children will die. I hate to be this dramatic, but I have seen in my office for the past six years people transformed into themselves, into beautiful, productive citizens, by getting the tools to live authentically and to their fullest potential. When this is cut off, by the hand of government, it is literally suffocation.”
Dr. Bennett also added that “defunding Medicaid coverage will impact tens of thousands of transgender adults. About half of my adult patients depend on Medicaid for their treatment and will lose access under this bill. ... The government is not supposed to practice medicine, and that is what you are trying to do with these bills. They are not protecting people; if passed they will destroy mental health, physical health and the health of our Commonwealth. ... Physicians and businesses will leave the state; these are losses we cannot afford.”
Senator Howell and his colleagues didn’t listen.
They are willing to risk the health of thousands of people just to help defeat Governor Andy Beshear, who opposes this bill and will be required to veto it. How shameful for them to engage in the same “unethical and unprofessional conduct” they accuse their opponents of supporting.
I fully support these words from Dr. Bennett’s letter. She asked the senators to come to her office “and see what really happens there instead of just guessing or relying on paid lobbyists with a political agenda. Meet real transgender people and families. Are you afraid to do this? Afraid you might be proven wrong and have to explain that? Then that is the best reason to do it. Your constituents’ lives depend on it.”
Passage of this measure is an embarrassment to our state and an insult to serious medical professionals. It is important that many of us write Senator Howell and his Republican colleagues and urge them not to override the gubernatorial veto of this bill.
Republicans love to talk about the importance of individual freedom — for themselves and those who vote for them — while denying that same freedom to those who disagree with them, even when those folks have science on their side.
It is time to inform these legislators that this time their “culture war” weapon is truly aimed at innocent fellow citizens.