The West Virginia House of Delegates held a public hearing Thursday on House Bill 2007. It was the first time medical experts testified on a bill that would restrict gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth.
Several state legislatures have introduced bills that limit surgery and hormone therapy for anyone under 18.
Major medical associations oppose such legislation, including HB 2007.
“The bill is dangerous,” said Dr. Allison Holstein, a representative from the American Academy of Pediatrics in West Virginia. “It’s an intrusion on the physician-patient relationship and the ability of physicians to provide care that is evidence-based for our patients.”
The bill’s supporters say its purpose is to protect young people from irreversible harm. But health professionals who work with transgender youth said the bill would do more harm than good. That includes Hannah McCoy, a crisis counselor.
“In my time as a crisis counselor, I heard countless pleas from trans kids begging to be seen, begging to be supported, begging to be affirmed in their identity, so much so that they felt death was their only escape,” McCoy said. “These children are tired and we are failing them.”
Dr. Jonathan Lucas-Neel practices family medicine at Charleston Area Medical Center. He said gender-affirming care is well supported by medicine.
“Creating laws that serve to stand between doctors and their patients only decrease access to care, only frighten people from seeking out medical care. This bill makes our state a more dangerous place and not a healthier one,” Lucas-Neel said. “Gender affirming care is based upon years of evidence and it is life saving.”
One supporter of HB 2007, Braden Roten, noted the nationwide push for similar legislation.
“I just want to say that this, despite the crowd opposing this bill, this is a red state,” he said. “And there’s a big push in the conservative movement for this bill. So if you don’t vote for this bill, we will vote you out.”
Samuel Green, coordinator for Marshall University’s suicide prevention organization and vice president of Huntington Pride, said the state’s transgender youth would remember, too.
“We know that West Virginia has the highest rate of trans youth in the nation,” Green said. “And you will have to reckon with them whenever they become voting age.”
But even opponents conceded HB 2007 is likely to pass the House.