By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “As a legislative body, I feel we are making a dramatic overreach when we are stepping into a field of medicine, where it is proven – whether you agree with it or don’t agree with it, it is proven – that a patient does better. Their suffering is made less.”
That’s what Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, said about the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapy during Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. Takubo’s statement came while explaining his proposed amendment to HB 2007. Passed by the House of Delegates on Feb. 3, the highly controversial bill seeks to prohibit both the non-surgical and surgical gender-reassignment treatment of minors. Takubo’s amendment sought to remove puberty blockers and hormone therapy from the prohibition.
“I cannot, in good conscience, leave a section of the bill when we know the facts are that this therapy does improve the functionality of a child,” Takubo said. “It decreases suicide rates. It helps with their mental health. It doesn’t cure their mental health disorder, but it does lessen it and give them more time to work with their therapist.”
The committee heard nearly an hour of testimony from Dr. Kacie Kidd, medical director of the Gender and Sexual Development Clinic at WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital. Kidd educated committee members as to the benefits of these treatments for minors diagnosed with, and suffering from gender dysphoria, noting that medication is not typically considered until a patient has been undergoing counseling for several years. Kidd also warned of the trauma that the sudden discontinuation of medication would cause, saying, “I suspect very much that if my patients were forcibly removed from the medical care that has improved their mental health, that they would consider and likely attempt suicide.”
“I’m very worried that my patients would die as a result,” Kidd added.
Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, was dismissive of Kidd’s testimony, saying, “I was caught off guard to see that WVU Medicine has a Gender and Sexual Development clinic to change the sex of children in West Virginia.”
“What’s more disturbing about it is it’s the first step,” Tarr continued. “The next step is happening across the country. In the past three years, there’s been 776 mastectomies to treat gender dysphoria.”
“The fact is, that’s the next step,” Tarr added. “And I don’t think we should give them (minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria) a toe, never mind a next step for this kind of treatment.”
Takubo’s amendment was rejected by the committee, prompting him to offer a second. Takubo’s follow-up proposal would allow puberty blockers and hormone therapies to be used only in the cases of private insurance or self-pay patients. Despite receiving more support from committee members which resulted in a vote of seven-seven, Takubo’s second offering too was rejected.
For his third attempt, Takubo requested the bill be changed to allow minors 16-years-of-age and older to begin or continue receiving treatment. Tarr again spoke in opposition, and the vote was once again seven-seven.
The final amendment Takubo proposed simply sought to extend the time before the bill’s effective date, therefore allowing doctors and patients to be safely taken off any prohibited medications.
“If you get this amendment, are you voting for the bill?” Tarr asked Takubo, who replied, “My honest-to-God answer is I don’t know.”
“I oppose the gentleman’s amendment,” Tarr said.
Committee Chair Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, then spoke in favor of the amendment, saying, “As a committee of mostly medically-uneducated people, this is equivalent to passing a law that says you can’t treat somebody for schizophrenia.”
“It’s the equivalent of saying you can’t give somebody drugs for chemotherapy,” Maroney continued. “Those are all peer-reviewed, proven things. This is too, but it’s something we don’t understand or don’t get. That’s fine, and I chose to stay quiet.”
“But to take the step to prohibit those already being treated, to deny them continued treatment – that’s not only uneducated, that’s cruel in my opinion,” Maroney added.
Takubo’s fourth and final amendment proposal was also defeated. Despite his support of removing prohibitions for non-surgical treatments, Maroney, along with 11 other committee members voted in favor of the bill. Only Takubo, and Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, voted against its adoption. HB 2007 will now be advanced to the Senate Judiciary Committee for their consideration.
RealWV will provide updates regarding the status of HB 2007 as additional information is made available.