“We will make the performance of any type of irreversible surgery or medical procedure on a minor a prohibited medical practice, if it’s based on gender identity,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said.
Johnson, alongside House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), filed House Bill 0001 and Senate Bill 0001, labeling it as ‘the nation’s strongest legislation’ on children’s transgender care.
It focuses mainly on punishing doctors who administer transgender care to minors rather than the minors themselves.
“There are no criminal aspects of this or civil penalty aspects of this applied to the child upon whom these procedures are performed,” Johnson said.
The bill does three main things:
- First, it would allow a child to ‘bring a civil cause of action’ – a lawsuit – against a medical provider or their parent if that parent ‘consented to the conduct that constituted the violation on behalf of the minor.’
- Second, it would give the Attorney General the power to bring legal action against a medical provider if that provider knowingly violates the law. Penalties could include revoking any profits made from the surgery as well as a $25,000 fine.
- Third, if a physician violates the potential law, it ‘requires emergency action’ to potentially revoke their license.
If this law passes the General Assembly next year, it would prohibit healthcare providers from performing medical procedures if they ‘enable a minor to identify with an identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.’ In the legislation, the term ‘medical procedure’ includes both surgery and ‘prescribing, administering, or dispensing any drug or device to a human being.’
So, according to that definition, it’d be illegal for a medical provider to prescribe hormone blockers from when the law potentially goes into effect.
While most Republicans are for the legislation, most Democrats oppose it.
“If the Republican party, with its vast power and political power in Tennessee, wants to prioritize a non-issue, that’s their prerogative,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said.
One of the main worries is this legislation will eventually lead to banning transgender care for everyone in Tennessee, not just children.
“Well, I’ve given up on what type of discriminatory legislation my Republican colleagues will pass or introduce,” Clemmons said.
Though there’s no telling what the future holds, Johnson says expansion is not something he’s interested in.
“In Tennessee, with a couple of exceptions, you become an emancipated adult at the age of 18,” Johnson said. “At that point, if you choose to have your body modified in some way, then you should be able to do that. It’s a totally different matter when you’re talking about kids.”
The law comes after a conservative commentator accused Vanderbilt Medical Center of performing transgender surgeries for profit. The school has denied those allegations.
After Johnson and Lamberth officially filed the legislation Wednesday morning, News 2 reached out to Vanderbilt representatives to see if they wanted to update their comments, and they chose not to do so.
“I hope there are no legal challenges to the legislation,” Johnson said. “To me, I can just tell you there is overwhelming support to do this in Tennessee.”
Johnson’s hopes may be dashed.
The ACLU of Tennessee released a statement on the matter, writing, in part, “We will be bringing the full force of our organization to bear in fighting this legislation.”
The statement, in full, reads:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today Tennessee politicians introduced legislation that would prohibit doctors and families from making necessary life-saving healthcare decisions to support transgender youth.
Multiple studies have shown that providing gender-affirming and supportive care saves young people’s lives by dramatically reducing depression and suicidal ideation.
The following can be attributed to Henry Seaton, ACLU of Tennessee transgender justice advocate:
“Denying healthcare to transgender youth can be life-threatening. Research shows it contributes to depression, isolation, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. However, transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a significant decrease in suicidal thoughts and attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem.
Everyone should have access to the healthcare they need to survive and thrive. This legislation takes away the ability of families and medical professionals to provide life-saving care for transgender youth. Trans young people deserve love, respect and dignity, and the ACLU of Tennessee is deeply committed to protecting trans young people from physical and emotional harm. We will be bringing the full force of our organization to bear in fighting this legislation.”