On a recent Friday, Governor Mike DeWine, the Republican head of Ohio, vetoed a bill that sought to prevent minors from securing gender-affirming healthcare, and to prohibit transgender athletes from competing in sports for women and girls.
This course of action sets him apart from his party colleagues who backed the bill. The Republican-controlled lawmakers have the numbers to overturn the veto, though when this might occur is uncertain. As observed throughout this year, the party’s unity across and within legislative chambers is somewhat fragmented.
During a scheduled press meeting, DeWine acknowledged the passionate pleas from advocates on both sides of the problem, each arguing that their stance provides the greatest protection for children. He concluded that while the proposed legislation would only affect a few children, those dealing with gender dysphoria and their families could experience profound impacts as a result of the proposed law.
In articulating his veto decision, he emphasized the prime notion of safeguarding human life. ‘There may be infrequent instances in legislative policy where the state overrules parental medical decisions, but I cannot fathom an example where we not only contest the decision of the parent, but also the medical judgment of the treating physician and the collective medical team,’ said DeWine.
As a result, he stated he couldn’t endorse the bill in its present form. Nevertheless, he suggested that some of the focal issues addressed in the bill could be mitigated through different administrative measures, and then announced a triple strategy underway.
As first action, Governor DeWine is instructing relevant bodies to outlaw any surgical procedures for gender-affirming care for those under 18. Challenging the misconception that all gender-affirming measures necessarily entail surgical intervention, he called it a ‘fallacy’.
For the second part of his approach, DeWine agreed with legislators on the lack of comprehensive data regarding minors receiving gender-affirming care. As a remedy, he will instruct relevant institutions to study the matter and report their findings to the Legislature as well as the general public. The reports should also include information about adults who seek this care.
For the third and final part of his strategy, Governor DeWine promised his administration will devise regulations and constraints against hasty and transient medical establishments, ensuring families receive fitting advice about gender-affirming treatment.
A large number of individuals spoke against the bill while it was still under legislative review, counting amongst them mental health and medical professionals, educators, religious leaders, parents of transgender kids, and the transgender community members themselves. The consensus amongst detractors was that the law is harmful, possibly life threatening to transgender youth and fundamentally based on fear rather than empirical research.
This bill, which only saw support from the Republican side when it passed the Legislature earlier this month, aimed to ban minors in Ohio from accessing puberty blockers, any hormone therapies, or pursuing gender reassignment surgeries aligned with their gender identities. However, the bill did make provisions that any minor – an Ohio inhabitant – already receiving such treatment may continue with the same.
DeWine’s veto stands in contrast to the trend in other states where laws of this nature have been successfully passed. Over the past year, more than 20 states have enacted laws hindering or outright banning these treatments, in spite of the fact that such treatments have been available for over ten years in the United States and have long been recommended by leading medical associations.
Nevertheless, continued legal challenges to these laws have led to a mix of court rulings. Several states face such lawsuits, with judges handing down different decisions.
In addition to the restraints around medical treatments, the bill also called for public K-12 schools and universities to categorize teams based on gender. It specifically sought to ban transgender females from participating in sports that align with their gender identity.
Supporters of the legislation argued that by preventing transgender athletes from participating in female sports, the sanctity of those sports is upheld, ensuring equitable competition. At least 20 states have already enacted some sort of ban on transgender athletes competing on state-wide K-12 and college sports teams.
However, these bans could be overruled by a regulation proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden – one that is expected to be finalized in the early part of the upcoming year.
By his actions, Governor DeWine effectively raises the importance of individual medical decisions and suggests that states should steer clear from standardizing medical care across diverse patient demographics. His redirection of the focus to the need for comprehensive data and regulations, suggest a more prudent, informed approach to this complex issue.