Bill to restrict transgender healthcare before puberty advances out of Tennessee House committee

Tennessee News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A bill aimed at making it harder for transgender youth to gain access to gender-affirming healthcare is making its way through the Tennessee State House.

The bill will restrict some medical care for transgender children prior to puberty and will add additional requirements for health care once a child begins puberty.

House Bill 0578 will require any transgender child who has entered puberty to have three doctors sign off on care. Including two licensed doctors and at least one letter from a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist.

“HB 0578 will effectively block transgender youth in Tennessee from receiving lifesaving healthcare,” said Dr. Kristin Rager.

Dr. Rager, who is among a few transgender medical care specialists in the state, testified in the House Criminal Justice Committee Wednesday.

“The barrier of requiring three physicians to sign off, three specialist physicians frankly, and specifically a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is a huge barrier that patients will not be able to overcome,” Dr. Rager said, “And will directly result in patients not being able to access care.”

During the hearing, things changed from the topic of the bill to Dr. Rager’s practice as a pediatrician who treats transgender children or those curious about the treatments.

“I would ask you to please tread very carefully, and I would hope that you do, because many times a child may be coming to you looking for help, and I’m trying to make sure you don’t shove them down a path that might not necessarily be where they want to go,” said Republican Leader William Lamberth.

Criminal charges for doctors are included in the new bill if a violation occurs, including a Class A misdemeanor, civil liability and professional misconduct subject to discipline by health professional’s licensing authority.

“I don’t think we were terribly impressed with the doctor’s testimony,” Lamberth said in response to the testimony from Dr. Rager.

“My job is to give them information, and then the child and the family make the decision that’s best for them,” Dr. Rager said in defense.

The bill bans hormone replacement, puberty blockers and other interventions to change the sexual identity or physical appearance of a child before puberty if it does not correspond with the gender at birth.

Dr. Rager did not have any additional comment on the testimony. Lawmakers have already passed a transgender athletic ban. The companion bill in the Senate is being carried by Deputy Senate Speaker Senator Janice Bowling.

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