Senate Bill 1138, sponsored by Sen. Warren Petersen (R – Gilbert), moved from the Senate Committee of the Whole into the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Amid emotional testimonies and debate between legislators, the bill ultimately passed.
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SB 1138 would prohibit a physician from providing irreversible gender reassignment surgery to any individual under the age of 18. There are several exceptions noted in the bill, including for individuals with sexual development disorders, and the bill does not prohibit the provision of hormonal therapies to individuals under 18.
Petersen spoke on behalf of his bill, stating that it would help children struggling to embrace their biological sex by protecting them from these surgeries.
“This bill is about protecting children and their individual rights … Minors cannot buy alcohol, cigarettes, vote, or get a tattoo … Children should not be encouraged or forced to receive experimental treatments that have permanent consequences, including leaving them sterile and physically marred for life,” he said. “The best treatment for gender identity conflict has shown to be allowing adolescence to play out naturally.”
While Petersen referenced data supporting that 18 is the recommended age for these surgeries by the medical community and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Rep. Melody Hernandez (D – Tempe) said this data was outdated and was not reflective of current medical standards of care.
Brandie Reiner, representing the National Association of Social Workers for Arizona, spoke in opposition to the bill, adding to Hernandez’s comments.
“It is the overwhelming consensus of major medical and mental health associations that gender affirming care is life-saving, best practice care for transgender and gender expansive youth … When youth are accepted and affirmed, the rates of mental distress and suicide decrease,” Reiner said. “Access to gender-affirming care for youth saves lives, reduces the likelihood of harm, and promotes healing.”
Rep. Walter Blackman (R – Snowflake) voiced his concerns about children’s brains not being fully developed and therefore unable to make a sound decision.
Kathy Herrod from the Center for Arizona Policy also spoke in favor of the bill, saying the intent was to not harm children with irreversible surgeries.
The bill passed in a 6-4 vote, with opposing votes coming from Reps. Domingo DeGrazia (D – Tucson), Hernandez, Christopher Mathis (D – Tucson), and Jennifer Pawlik (D – Chandler).
“Because these issues are being handled by trained medical professionals, there are certainly enough protections and checks and balances to make sure that when youth go forward, that it is in their best interest and with all of the appropriate protections in place,” DeGrazia said.