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Republican wants to stop feds from letting trans youth get health care behind parents’ backs

Republican wants to stop feds from letting trans youth get health care behind parents’ backs
Louisiana state senator "Big Mike" FesiPhoto: Louisiana State Senate

A bill proposed last week in the Louisiana Senate would require that trans youth get at least one parent’s signature giving permission for them to receive any kind of gender-affirming care, including talk therapy.

While he didn’t specifically name any instances, Louisiana Sen. Mike Fesi (R) claimed that “there is a lot of stuff going on all over the country giving kids the ability to make their own decisions at a young age.” But even though he wants to add a legal requirement for gender-affirming care specifically, he claims that his bill will make it “just like any other medical treatment.”

Related: Montana Republicans pass religious exemptions bill that could legalize LGBTQ discrimination

Fesi’s proposal, S.B. 104, was pre-filed last week with the state senate, which has a Republican majority of 27 members and 12 Democrats. The proposal will go before the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare when the chamber opens its regular session on April 12.

If enacted into law, S.B. 104 calls for requiring “prior informed written consent” from parents or guardians for minors to receive “gender therapy.” Both parents must give consent, or at least one parent or guardian provided both parents aren’t available. If only one parent or guardian has custodial rights or “legally obligated” as a caretaker objects, the other parent or another potential “caretaker” can petition a court to reject the consent.

The bill defines “gender therapy” as “counseling or psychotherapy treatment founded on the position that, regardless of a person possessing physical attributes of a certain gender at birth, no gender identity, expression or experience by that person is any more valid than any other.”

That could include any therapy treatment that doesn’t expressly assume that one’s sex assigned at birth is their gender identity, including psychotherapy.

In most cases, minors already have to get consent from parents for medical care, making local transgender advocates believe that he just wants to make it harder for trans youth to access therapy and puberty blockers.

Dylan Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Trans Advocates, explained to the Louisiana Illuminator that the bill would create a “a two-tier health care system for transgender and gender nonconforming minors” — one tier of trans and non-conforming youth that have the support of at least one parent, and those that don’t.

“Care is going to be available to people who have support, but not to anyone else,” Waguespack said.

Hormone therapy and surgical procedures would also require written consent under the bill.

Fesi explained his proposal to Houma Today: “I just want to put it in perspective that it’s just like any other medical treatment.”

“The parents have to sign off on it if a child has cancer and needs chemo treatment or needs some kind of surgery. I’m just putting this in the same position.”

He claims his bill is “needed” because he believes that the federal government is trying to make it easier for trans youth to go behind their parents’ backs and access gender-affirming health care.

“Between the federal government and other agencies, they’re trying to make it legal. We just want to put a law on the books to guarantee it goes along with any other medical condition,” he claimed.

Trans advocates in the state, however, aren’t buying it.

Waguespack said, “The research is clear: Affirming care reduces suicide ideation and attempts in trans youth.”

“It’s completely unconscionable that any legislator — especially a legislator with no background in medical care or mental health — would attempt to place additional barriers between young people and the care they need.”

“By restricting their access to gender-affirming care, Sen. Fesi is stripping licensed healthcare providers of their ability to provide much-needed services,” stated Sarah Jane Guidry, executive director of the Louisiana-based advocate group Forum for Equality.

“This bill puts misinformed politicians in charge of making those vital and life-saving decisions instead of those qualified to do so.”

Further, the bill makes any “consent executed by a minor” to be invalid or non-binding. A legal expert questions whether legally stripping the ability to consent to medical treatment from people under 18 and leaving it solely in the hands of others actually protects them.

David Kanter, director of the Juvenile Law Clinic at Tulane University and a professor of clinical law, said to Houma Today that minors having consent is “kind of a loaded question.”

“The law recognizes that there are mature minors in our society. We allow children who file petitions in courts of law with judges,” he said, “whose job it is to at least ask the appropriate questions to ensure that the child understands the weight and the consequences of their decision-making.”

Fesi is in his first term as a state senator. He is a oil and gas executive, having founded several construction companies and Kid Energy USA, a children’s entertainment provider. He is a member of the NRA and was a delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

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