Parents providing gender-affirming care for their kids could get life in prison under GOP bill

The Michigan Pride rally at the state Capitol in Lansing on June 26, 2022. | Photo by Andrew Roth

By Jon King, Michigan Advance

The same legislator who wants to ban drag shows from Michigan schools, even though none have taken place, is now seeking to lock up parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children.

State Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) on Tuesday introduced House Bill 6454, which would amend the definition of first degree child abuse to include anyone who “knowingly or intentionally consents to, obtains, or assists with a gender transition procedure for a child.” Ryan Berman

That would include a parent or guardian of the child, as well as any medical professionals involved in their care, and would set the maximum penalty at life in prison.

In response to the proposed bill, Equality Michigan issued an “Urgent Action Alert” asking residents to “imagine how disastrous this bill would be for trans youth and their families” and urging them to contact their representative and ask them not to support it.

“Gender affirming care is medically necessary and life-saving care for transgender youth,” said Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan. “Medical decisions belong to trans youth, their parents, and their doctors. Unfortunately, the Michigan House of Representatives are trying to come between youth and the care they need. House Bill 6454 is a reckless bill that, if passed, will have dangerous effects on transgender youth,” 

With the certainty that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would veto the measure, Berman’s legislation appears to be geared toward the Nov. 8 election, where many Republicans, including Whitmer’s opponent, Tudor Dixon, have been running on an anti-LGBTQ+ platform..

However, if Dixon were to win the election, the legislation could have a more favorable reception from the new governor if reintroduced in 2023.

The bill mirrors efforts in other states, like Texas, where the state’s attorney general issued an opinion that likened gender-affirming surgery to child abuse, while a bill that passed the Idaho House would sentence medical providers who offered gender-affirming care to life in prison.

One of the Michigan bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), told The Hill he believes it is “logically incoherent” to provide gender-affirming care to youth unable to legally consent to have sex.

“The idea that we would be making potentially life-altering changes to 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kids when it is illegal for them to have sex is insane,” he said. “I mean, they’re not responsible enough to smoke a cigarette until they’re 21.”

However, LaFave’s comparison erroneously conflates sexuality with gender, two different concepts that are often confused with one another.

It also ignores the reality of gender dysphoria, which the American Psychiatric Association defines as the “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.”

That distress often manifests itself in heightened mental health disorders that can, and often does, result in tragic outcomes.

The Trevor Project’s 2022 survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health determined that nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide in the past year, while 42% of youth who identified as LGBTQ+ contemplated suicide in 2020 — a figure that rose to 52% for trans kids in particular.

The attempt to legislatively interfere with medical treatments prompted the American Medical Association to issue a letter in 2021 calling such efforts “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”

“Such decisions must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation, nurture the child’s short and long-term development, and balance the need to preserve the child’s opportunity to make important life choices autonomously in the future,” stated the letter. “We believe it is inappropriate and harmful for any state to legislatively dictate that certain transition-related services are never appropriate and limit the range of options physicians and families may consider when making decisions for pediatric patients.”

Knott said the medical community in Michigan must also be called on to step up and oppose this latest measure.

“Equality Michigan calls on medical professionals, educators, counselors, adults and impacted families to to speak out on House Bill 6454 and its negative impacts on the health and wellbeing for transgender youth,” she said.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.


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