South Carolina bans gender-affirming care for trans youth. Now half the states ban it.

February 24, 2023, Boise, Idaho, protect transgender youth rally. People holding flags and signs in support of transgender youth being able to receive gender, affirming care.
Photo: Shutterstock

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender people under the age of 18 on Tuesday, making the state the 25th state to do so.

Under the new law, healthcare workers may not prescribe puberty blockers or hormone treatments or perform gender-affirming surgeries for minors, even though such surgeries are almost never performed on minors. The law also says that school principals or vice principals would be required to out trans or nonbinary students to parents if their child wants to use a name, nickname, or pronouns that do not correspond with their sex assigned at birth.

It does include some exceptions: mental health counselors can discuss the banned treatments and share where they are legal. It also includes a stipulation allowing doctors to prescribe puberty blockers for conditions that afflict cisgender youth, such as precocious puberty.

When the bill advanced to the General Assembly, doctors and parents testified these treatments can be lifesaving. Research and studies have demonstrated that transgender people, both youth and adults, are more likely to have increased rates of stress, depression, and suicidal behavior when they cannot receive care and must live as the gender they do not identify with.

Many pro-LGBTQ+ groups have pushed back against the law. The Campaign for Southern Equality said they are gathering resources to help families get access to resources they cannot receive in South Virginia.

“I am saddened to report that South Carolina’s governor has signed a gender affirming care ban, forced outing policy, and public funding ban on gender affirming care,” trans journalist Erin Reed posted on X. “This is in violation of a recent 4th Circuit decision, with SC being under their jurisdiction.”

HRC said in a statement that “by passing this discriminatory, anti-transgender bill, legislators have put the safety and well-being of South Carolina residents at risk, likely forcing some families to consider leaving the state out of necessity for their health and safety.” The organization cited a 2023 survey that found that 42.9% of LGBTQ+ adults said they’d try to move to another state if theirs passed a ban on gender-affirming care for trans people.

“South Carolina legislators abused their power today by substituting their judgment for that of parents, medical professionals, mental health care professionals, and other experts,” HRC Senior Director of Legal Policy Cathryn Oakley said. “This is a major violation of South Carolinians’ liberty. Every credible medical organization in the nation supports age-appropriate gender-affirming care, which can be a life-saving treatment for LGBTQ+ youth.”

The bill means that Virginia is the last state in the South that gives transgender youth legal access to care.

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