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Advocates, stakeholders oppose Ohio’s gender-affirming care restrictions

The past few months have created a foggy future for many Ohioans. State leaders and legislators have imposed restrictions on gender-affirming health care, creating an increasingly anti-trans environment.

“(Current proposals) will still have a devastating impact on trans and non-binary youth in Ohio, and it's totally unprecedented,” said Carson Hartlage, a TransOhio board member.

One of the restrictive measures is House Bill 68, a piece of legislation that bans gender-affirming health care for minors and prohibits trans-women from competing in women’s sports.

Mallory Golski, the civic engagement and advocacy manager at Kaleidoscope Youth Center, went to the state house on Dec. 6 to testify against House Bill 68 on behalf of Kaleidoscope. 

“It was powerful to hear a lot of these parents and trans Ohioans who would be impacted by this,” Golski said. “It was empowering, but also at the same time, it was just heart-wrenching.”

Golski reflected on one particularly impactful testimony from a mother, Anne Anderson. 

“I’m here today to support my daughter,” Anderson said during her testimony on Dec. 6. “The problem is, I don’t know if it’s going to matter.”

In an emotional statement, Anderson gripped the podium, imploring legislators to keep life-saving care accessible for Ohio trans youth.

“I’m begging you on behalf of all of Ohio’s trans kids not to pass this bill,” Anderson said. “It’s no good. It’s going to bring harm. There’s going to be major repercussions.”

Dec. 29, Gov. DeWine vetoed House Bill 68. The veto served as a victory for opponents of the legislation.

However, on Jan. 10, the Ohio Senate voted to override DeWine’s veto of House Bill 68. Despite nearly 7 hours of testimonies against the legislation, the bill will go into effect April 23. 

“I walked away that night thinking like, ‘Wow, we've done something,’ and then, only for them to, unsurprisingly, pass the legislation anyway,” Golski said. 

State Representative Gary Click, the primary sponsor of HB 68, argues the legislation will protect minors.

“The SAFE Act literally saves adolescents from experimentation and will return our institutions to the evidence-based medicine that they should have never forsaken,” Click wrote in a press release following the Senate’s override. 

HB 68 is not the only restriction being placed on gender-affirming care within the state. 

Rhea Debussy, the director of external affairs at Equitas Health, explained on Jan. 5, Gov. DeWine proposed administrative rule changes that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors and adults alike.

If enforced, the rule proposal would require numerous prerequisites to receiving gender-affirming care, including counseling and a multidisciplinary team of specialists. 

“DeWine’s proposed administrative rules would place an undue burden on medical providers and patients and if enacted as they're currently written, these rules will impact access to equitable health care for trans non-binary gender expansive and intersex people across Ohio,” Debussy said. 

Debussy said this proposal is an infringement on the decision-making ability of patients and health care professionals. 

“It's our position at Equitas Health that politicians should not be making patient's health care decisions,” she said. “Instead, health care decisions should be made by patients and health care providers.”

Despite restrictions and proposed rule changes, all the mentioned organizations – TransOhio, Kaleidoscope Youth Center and Equitas Health will continue providing support to the Ohio transgender community.

TransOhio offers name change grants and an emergency fund to help people access care. 

“TransOhio has been fighting bills like this for years, and we probably will continue to do so for years,” Hartlage said.

Kaleidoscope Youth Center provides gender-affirming clothes to youth along with housing and behavioral health services.

Equitas Health does not provide gender-affirming care to those under the age of 18, but Debussy said the agency will continue providing services and support for adults.

“We will continue providing gender-affirming care, we will jump through whatever administrative hoops we need to jump through to continue providing care to trans, non-binary, gender expansive and intersex people,” she said. “And that is a fact.” 


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