House Health Committee advances bill seeking to ban minors from gender reassignment surgery

By Matthew Young, RealWV

NOTE: The following article contains definitions and descriptions of medical procedures which may be inappropriate for some readers.

CHARLESTON, W.Va – The House Health and Human Resources Committee, on Friday, advanced a bill which seeks to prohibit those under the age of 18 from undergoing “irreversible gender reassignment surgery (GRS).”

“I feel that it’s just a waste of time,” Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha – who serves as Minority Chair of the Health and Human Resources Committee – told RealWV on Sunday. “It’s really just an insult to a community that’s already marginalized in West Virginia.”

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha.

“The bill bans the surgery (GRS) for minors, which isn’t something that’s currently happening in West Virginia,” Pushkin added. “Minors can’t get elective surgery.”

Under the terms outlined in the proposed bill – designated as HB 2007 and sponsored by Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam – gender is defined as, “the psychological, behavioral, social and cultural aspects of being male or female.” The bill further defines irreversible gender reassignment surgery as, “a medical procedure performed for the purpose of assisting an individual with a gender transition.” 

Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam.

Should Foster’s bill become law, procedures such as penectomy (removal of the penis), orchiectomy (removal of one or both testicles), and vulvoplasty (creation of the vulva) for minors meeting the bill’s definition of “biological males;” and metoidioplasty (creation of the penis), vaginectomy (removal of the vagina), and scrotoplasty (correction or creation of the scrotum) for minors defined by the bill as “biological females,” would be outlawed in West Virginia.

The bill makes exceptions for the performance of certain procedures on minors in the cases of, “medically verifiable disorder of sex development,” and, “because the individual suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the person in imminent danger.”

“West Virginia has far more important issues that we should be dealing with than surgeries that aren’t taking place on minors currently,” Pushkin continued. “This isn’t something that’s currently happening – minors don’t get elective surgeries. We are banning something that’s not taking place.”

“The only reason they’re  running it (HB 2007) – to me, it’s just political,” Pushkin added. “It’s just an insult, and a mean-spirited bill that doesn’t do anything.”

The bill’s advancement through House Health and Human Resources means it could soon be debated in the Judiciary Committee. Del. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, who serves on Judiciary, looks forward to that debate, telling RealWV, “I am opposed to gender reassignment surgery for juveniles.”

Del. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier.

“It’s obviously going to be a very touchy subject,” Honaker added. “My common sense approach to it is this: when it comes to adults, live your life and do what you want to do. Don’t bother anybody else and I won’t bother you. That’s what makes this country so great.”

“But I find it remarkable that there’s so many decisions we don’t trust children to make because we know that intellectually they’re not fully developed enough to even make decisions about getting a tattoo or drinking alcohol, or so many other things,” Honaker continued. “And yet, we would even entertain the idea of a 13 or 14-year-old, or even a 17-year-old making a decision about surgery to change their gender-identity – I think a time will come when they’re an adult that they should be able to make that decision.”

“I just think, as juveniles, they’re not intellectually developed and responsible and mature enough to make those decisions,” Honaker noted. “So I’m going to support the bill (HB 2007).”

Honaker added that he is hopeful the Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to hear testimony from individuals impacted by gender reassignment surgeries – both those who have undergone it, as well as those who have been denied the opportunity to do so. 

In conclusion, Honaker noted, “I know we (Republicans) always get painted as ‘if you’re opposed to this (HB 2007)  then you must be opposed to transgender people,’” before he mentioned the high suicide rates within the transgender community. “We need to do things to be more accepting of whatever lifestyle they choose to live. It doesn’t hurt me, in any way, shape or form that a person chooses to live that way.” 

RealWV will provide updates regarding the progression of HB 2007 as additional information is made available. 


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