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Ohio governor signs order barring minors from gender-affirming surgery as veto override looms

Jan 5, 2024, 12:46 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A week after vetoing legislation that would have banned all forms of gender-affirming care for minors in Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order Friday barring Ohioans from receiving transgender surgeries until they’re 18.

The bill passed by both chambers along party lines last year would have banned gender-affirming surgeries, as well as hormone therapies, and restricted mental health care for transgender individuals under 18. While DeWine’s order does ban such surgeries for minors, it does not put limits on hormone therapies or the type of mental health care minors can receive. It takes effect immediately.

“A week has gone by, and I still feel just as firmly as I did that day,” DeWine said, doubling down on his decision to veto the broader restrictions. “I believe the parents, not the government, should be making these crucial decisions for their children.”

In announcing his veto last week, the governor said medical professionals he consulted with told him such surgeries aren’t happening, anyway, and families with transgender children did not advocate for them.

“This will ensure that surgeries of this type on minors can never happen in Ohio,” DeWine said in Friday’s press conference, adding that the executive order takes the issue “off the table” and provides clear guidelines.

The move comes as an effort by the GOP-dominated Legislature to override DeWine’s veto looms next week. The Ohio House has scheduled a session where a vote is expected Wednesday, while the Ohio Senate will vote on Jan. 24.

DeWine said Friday that he has also directed the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to take action.

The departments filed proposed administrative rules Friday that would ensure both transgender children and adults are not receiving treatment from what he called “fly-by-night” clinics or providers outside of proper healthcare systems.

The proposal would mandate a team for transgender individuals seeking gender-affirming care that would consist of, at a minimum, an endocrinologist, a bioethicist and a psychiatrist.

As part of their care plan, transgender individuals also must provide “sufficient informed consent” for gender-affirming care after comprehensive and lengthy mental health counseling, under the rules. For minors, parents also would have to give informed consent.

Additionally, the departments must also collect data submitted by providers on gender dysphoria and subsequent treatment, and his plan calls for the agencies to inform lawmakers, policy makers and the public.

These rules, unlike the executive order, are not in effect immediately. However, both the proposed rules and executive order are subject to change even though the executive order is effective — due to an emergency order. They must still go through the rule-making process with several state panels, including lawmakers, and opportunity for public comment.

Even if the Legislature chooses to override the veto, DeWine said his administration will continue to pursue these rules and that he is working with his legal team to ensure that his administration can implement them.

“We’re doing this because we think it’s the right thing to do,” the governor said.

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Samantha Hendrickson 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

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Ohio governor signs order barring minors from gender-affirming surgery as veto override looms