Ohio State Senate Votes to Ban Gender Procedures for Minors


The bill includes the ‘Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act’ and the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act.’

The Ohio State Senate passed a major bill addressing transgenderism among minors and in athletics on Dec. 13.

After both sides of the argument were given more than an hour to make several speeches, the legislation banning gender-related procedures for minors and other sexes in female sports was passed with 24 senators voting in favor of the bill and only eight voting against it, while dissenters were outside the chamber chanting, “Shame! Shame!”

First passed in the House of Representatives as two bills, the bill went before the Senate Government Oversight Committee, which heard hundreds of testimonies across four public hearings. The two bills were then merged into one two-part legislation known as Sub. H.B. 68 (pdf).

The two “acts” it included were the “Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” which essentially banned all gender-affirming healthcare for people under 18 years of age, and the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which prohibited transgender-identifying athletes from participating in women’s sports at all academic levels.

“With respect to the SAFE Act, we recognize the right of parents to raise their children, yet [the] government … does put laws into place for the benefit of minors,” said committee chairwoman Sen. Kristina Roegner (R), introducing the bill to the full Senate body. “For example, we require children to receive an education. Be it in public, private, [or] homeschool, they need to be educated.

“We don’t allow children to use drugs and permit them to be abused or abandoned by their parents. When this happens, kids get taken into the foster care system. We also recognize that kids change their opinions as they mature, and it’s frankly quite reckless to allow children to make such life-altering decisions when they are so young. Ohio can lead in this area as well.”

Ohio’s SAFE Act

The SAFE Act enforces restrictions on both physicians and mental health professionals in their treatment of minors.

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Physicians can no longer perform gender-related surgery on a minor, nor can they prescribe drugs such as cross-hormone or puberty-blocking drugs.

Mental health professionals—identified in the legislation as a variety of positions, from certified nurse practitioners who are certified in psychiatric-mental health to psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists—can no longer diagnose or treat a minor for a gender-related condition without first obtaining the consent from the minor’s parents or legal guardians.

They also cannot diagnose or treat gender-related conditions without first screening for other possible diagnoses that may be influencing the condition, such as depression, anxiety, autism, as well as physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse, and other traumas.

The SAFE Act also prevents Medicaid coverage from being used for gender-related services for minors and threatens any non-compliant physicians or mental health professionals with charges of unprofessional conduct, subject to discipline by their respective professional licensing board.

The minority opposition to the bill made their voice heard in the chamber.

“When we look at this legislation, let’s be clear: it is not necessarily about preventing children from being exposed to these types of procedures, but it is preventing parents from making decisions about the health care of their children,” said Assistant Minority Whip Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D). “It also removes the decision for health care from professionals and parents and gives it again to [the] government.”

“I think we learned just in this last election that that’s not really a good idea for us in the state of Ohio to make legislation here and then expect the general Ohio Institute just to go along with it,” she added, referring to the overwhelming majority vote in November that legalized access to abortion up to 22 weeks in the state.

Save Women’s Sports Act

Tied to the SAFE Act is the Buckeye State’s own take on banning transgender-identifying athletes from participating in women’s sports at all academic levels.

The Save Women’s Sports Act requires each school, both private and public, to designate single-sex teams based on the sex of the participants. There must be a separate team consisting only of participants of the female sex, and only those of the male sex. Any co-ed teams must also be based on the sex of the participants.

At the college level, this bill puts those same requirements on each state, private, and nonprofit college and university that is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJAA).

The bill also states, “No state institution or private college … shall knowingly allow individuals of the male sex to participate on athletic teams or in athletic competitions designated for only participants of the female sex.”

Furthermore, the Act forbids any investigations or legal action taken against a school compliant with the bill and authorizes an athlete to file a civil action if he or she loses an opportunity or suffers harm as a result of the single-sex participation requirements being violated.

Nearly all of the outspoken opposition in the chamber was directed towards the banning of gender-affirming care for Ohioans under 18 years old, but state Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D) touched upon the women’s sport Act.

“There’s two different ways that these children are being told by policymakers that they can’t be who they are and that they can’t present us who they are, who they believe they are,” she said. “They can’t participate in sports the way they’d like to because they’re not seen as who they believe they are. And in so, they’re being denied the ability to be a complete full-functioning person, as they believe as they’re trying to affirm they are.”

Clarification and Exceptions

The legislation includes some exceptions and clarifications that the state senate’s Republican-majority Government Oversight Committee added to the bill during the previous hearings.

Five changes were made, according to Ms. Roegner. They clarified that the court cannot deny or limit a parent’s rights based on that parent’s decision to raise a child in a manner consistent with the child’s biological sex. They removed the definition of the word “gender” and “certain statistics.”

“We also added what is, in essence, the grandfather clause,” she said. “This is permitting those that are currently minors in Ohio, that are going through these procedures or receiving these prescription cross-sex hormones and puberty-blocking drugs to continue up until the effective date of the bill.”

For physicians, those exceptions of surgery prohibition include when an individual is born with rare conditions known as 46 XX chromosomes and 46 XY chromosomes, which can result in an individual showing physical characteristics or genitalia of both sexes, or when a physician has determined through genetic or biochemical testing that a minor does not have a male or female sex chromosome structure, or sex steroid hormone production or action. Healthcare officials can also intervene if a minor needs any treatment for infection, injury, or disorder caused or exacerbated by previous gender-change services.

“Throughout this experience, it’s blatantly clear that transgender individuals are real; we’ve heard from many of them in committee,” Ms. Roegner said. “They do suffer. They deserve dignity, compassion, and community. But what they do not deserve is fads, ideology, and certainly not grotesquely optimistic false promises that are not supported by science. House Bill 68 protects Ohio’s kids and is good public policy.”


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