By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “The legislation itself is something that bullies people – that stigmatizes people. This type of legislation can cause people, I think, to commit suicide and to lose hope.”
That’s what Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, said about HB 2007 during Monday’s meeting of the House Judiciary Committee. In its original form, the bill sought to prohibit those under the age of 18 from undergoing “irreversible gender reassignment surgery (GRS).” However, the revised committee substitute would further prohibit other forms of gender-affirming medical treatments, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
“I certainly can’t look in anybody’s heart here, and I don’t want to,” Garcia told members of the committee. “I trust that each of you is doing what you think is correct, and that’s fine. But I’ve got very big concerns with the conversation that’s going on and how it will affect people.”
While being questioned by Garcia, bill sponsor Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, confirmed that he had not consulted with any experts from the medical community, any persons who have experienced gender dysphoria, or anyone involved in either gender affirmation or gender reassignment treatment. Foster also stated that he is unaware of gender reassignment surgery having ever been performed on a minor in the State of West Virginia.
“That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen tomorrow,” Foster said, before adding, “It is something that’s being done in other states. That’s why the concern comes to us.”
Before reaching the Judiciary Committee, HB 2007 was advanced through the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Jan. 20. Read the full report here.
Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, also asked Foster if he had spoken with medical experts, to which Foster responded, “Not specifically with the doctors. But this is something that’s not focusing on why it’s important, versus what the harm can be on performing these surgeries and giving these blockers to children while they’re still minors.”
“These are children that have a suicide rate of 40 to 60%,” Hansen replied. “This is a mental health crisis that they’re (doctors) trying to address in the sense of helping kids get to adulthood and actually survive.”
Del. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, who told RealWV last week that HB 2007 was going to be “a very touchy subject,” then spoke in support of the bill, noting, “You say, ‘That’s not happening in West Virginia.’ Well this is happening somewhere. Why would we wait until we’re up to our neck with a problem before we think, as a legislature, let’s do something now?”
“There are questions here about irreversible, catastrophic gender mutilation of a five-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 16-year-old,” Honaker continued. “And we’re going to sit here and act like that person can make the decision that, ‘I want my radical surgery to change my genitalia?’”
“We know the intent of this legislation is to protect children until they are adults and can make their own decisions, and that’s why I support this bill,” Honaker concluded.
After more than an hour of debate, HB 2007 was approved by Judiciary, and will now advance to the full House of Delegates with the committee’s recommendation for passage.
Prior to casting his no-vote, Del. Garcia said, “I can’t be for bullying, and I think that’s part of the reason why this bill is running. I’m against this bill.”