North Carolina House OKs ban on transgender youth surgeries

May 3, 2023, 4:42 PM

Eliazar Posada, an LGBTQ+ rights advocate, rallies a group of transgender people and their supporte...

Eliazar Posada, an LGBTQ+ rights advocate, rallies a group of transgender people and their supporters after a committee meeting at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

(AP Photo/Hannah Schoenbaum)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Transgender youth in North Carolina would have to wait until they turn 18 to receive gender-affirming surgeries under a bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled state House.

House lawmakers passed the proposal, which would prohibit doctors from performing surgeries on minors to remove or alter features typical of a patient’s sex assigned at birth, after allowing little time this week for members of the public to testify in committees.

Following the 74-44 House vote for passage, the bill now heads to the Senate, where Republicans hold a similar veto-proof majority. Two House Democrats — Reps. Michael Wray of Northampton County and Garland Pierce of Scotland County — and all Republicans voted yes.

The proposed measure, which would take effect Oct. 1, also bans using state funds to perform any gender-affirming procedure on a patient younger than 18, which could also restrict access to some hormone treatments and other medications.

If it becomes law, North Carolina physicians would be unable to refer a minor to another health care provider to receive gender-affirming surgeries.

Republican sponsors argued the bill will protect kids from receiving irreversible procedures before they are old enough to make their own informed medical decisions. But several transgender residents who rallied outside the legislature Tuesday after they were barred from speaking in committee said they worried the restrictions would have detrimental effects on youth mental health.

Rep. Ken Fontenot, a Wilson County Republican and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said performing gender-affirming surgeries on children and teenagers is “a grave injustice.”

“I am not against LGBTQ,” he said during floor debate. “I am a proud family member of several in that camp, and we love each other. I am against children being preyed upon.”

While doctors sometimes provide puberty blocking drugs or hormones to young patients who are experiencing gender dysphoria, they very rarely perform irreversible procedures such as genital surgery or mastectomies on minors.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services does not have quantitative data on how many of these surgeries are performed on transgender minors, spokesperson Bailey Pennington said.

Sharon Sullivan, a nurse and advocate from the socially conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council, applauded legislators Wednesday for protecting children from “sterilization.”

The General Assembly, like many Republican-led legislatures across the nation, is advancing a schools alert parents before addressing their child with a different name or pronoun.

Several Democrats, including Rep. Maria Cervania of Wake County, denounced the surgery bill as another unwarranted attack on transgender youth. The trans community is already experiencing a mental health crisis, she said, adding that legislation like this only serves to “demonize and target” the state’s most vulnerable residents.

Rae Bandy, the only transgender person given time to speak on the bill in committee this week, told The Associated Press they barely made it to adulthood without access to gender-affirming care as a kid growing up in Texas.

“We are just asking you to step back from our health care because, frankly, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” the 22-year-old told lawmakers earlier Wednesday. “We as patients, as parents and as medical professionals need to be making these decisions — not you.”

Rep. Vernetta Alston, a Durham County Democrat and one of the state’s few LGBTQ+ state legislators, called it “a copy and paste bill” that she said is scaring kids and has nothing to do with the needs of North Carolinians.

At least 16 states have enacted similar laws restricting or banning gender-affirming procedures for minors. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and nearly two dozen other states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban transgender surgeries or hormone treatments.

Florida, Missouri and Texas have banned or restricted the treatments via regulation or administrative order, but Missouri is the only one that also blocked Missouri’s restrictions through May 15.


Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

National News

In this Aug. 18, 2011 photo, prison guards ride horses that were broken by inmates as they return f...

Associated Press

Prisoners fight against working in heat on former slave plantation, raising hope for change in South

Beneath the blazing summer sun on a former slave plantation, Lamont Gross and fellow prisoners stooped in long rows, picking vegetables by hand under the watchful eyes of armed guards on horseback. He said breaks were short and infrequent, with nothing to protect workers from the heat. “I saw guys collapse,” Gross said of his […]

4 minutes ago

"Teddy," a 7-year-old chow mix, dons a doggie cap at a park, Monday, July 15, 2024, in Phoenix. As ...

Associated Press

Booties. Indoor dog parks. And following the vet’s orders. How to keep pets cool this summer

PHOENIX (AP) — As much of the world swelters, it’s not just people who need help with the dog days of summer. Pet owners have to consider how to both shield and cool down furry family members as intense — at times deadly — heat waves become more common. “It’s really important to remember that […]

43 minutes ago

Associated Press

NYC bus crashes into Burger King after driver apparently suffers a medical episode

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City bus driver apparently suffered a medical episode early Thursday and crashed his bus into a closed Burger King restaurant, police said. The driver crashed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus into the fast food restaurant in Brooklyn just after midnight, police said. He was taken to a hospital […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Biden and Harris set to meet Netanyahu following his fiery Congress address

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to make a long-awaited White House visit to meet with President Joe Biden and likely Democratic nominee Vice President Kamala Harris at an important moment for all three politicians. On Wednesday, President Biden made his first address since his decision to drop out of the 2024 presidential race. […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 lands at Manchester Boston Regional Airport, June 2, 2023, in ...

Associated Press

Southwest breaks 50-year tradition, plans to start assigning seats

Southwest Airlines is doing away with its 50-year tradition and plans to start assigning seats, as well as premium seating for customers who are seeking more legroom. The airline said Thursday that it has been studying customer preferences and expectations and is making the changes because of what they’ve heard, but it could also generate […]

3 hours ago

Holding signs with photos of Israeli hostages and demanding their release, people react as they wat...

Associated Press

Israel-Hamas war latest: Cease-fire talks face delays after Netanyahu’s fiery speech to Congress

Officials from Egypt, Israel, the United States and Qatar were expected to meet Thursday in Doha with the aim of resuming talks for a proposed three-phase cease-fire to end the war between Israel and Hamas and free the remaining hostages. But an Israeli official said Israel’s negotiating team was delayed and would likely be dispatched […]

4 hours ago

North Carolina House OKs ban on transgender youth surgeries