By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The saga of HB 2007, it seems, will soon be at an end. After Friday night’s 62-minute Senate debate which saw an amended version of the bill pass by a vote of 30 to two, the House of Delegates agreed to the changes on Saturday evening.
The highly controversial bill, sponsored by Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, originally sought only to prohibit minors from undergoing irreversible gender-altering surgery. The bill was later amended by Foster to prohibit all gender-affirming medical treatments, including puberty-blockers and hormone therapies with a high-probability of reversal, as well. The bill was passed in the House of Delegates on Feb. 3 by a vote of 84 to 10.
A committee amendment from Senate Health and Human Resources, moving the bill’s effective date from passage to Jan. 1, 2024, was approved on Friday without discussion. However, a second amendment from Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, was met with significantly more resistance.
As explained by Takubo, “What my amendment does is try to keep the intent of HB 2007 as it came amended from the House (of Delegates). What it does not do, is it does not change many provisions of the bill.”
“It (HB 2007) would continue to ban any type of altering surgery,” Takubo further explained. “It would also ban the prescribing or administering of gender-altering medications to minors for the intent of changing external appearance.”
Takubo then explained how his amendment would modify the bill.
“In the bill that came from the House, there were exclusions,” Takubo said. “In addition, there was another exclusion added, and that was the addition of pubertal-modulating hormone therapy for a condition of severe gender dysphoria, which is an extreme psychological illness.”
“These kids struggle,” Takubo continued. “They have incredible difficulties, and so what this section (of the bill) did was gave very strict guard rails so that the rest of the bill was left alone that talked about not being able to use the medicines just to create external changes, but instead it says that they can only be used in very specific situations.”
Those situations, according to Takubo, occur when a minor “has been diagnosed and is suffering from severe gender dysphoria” by a minimum of two mental or medical health providers. In these instances, the minor’s legal guardians and primary care physician must then be in agreement with the treatment.
“If medications are used, the lowest dose necessary will be used just to try and control the psychiatric condition, and not for the purposes of gender alteration,” Takubo said.
Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, who previously categorized aspects of HB 2007 as “cruel,” but ultimately voted for its passage in committee, rose in support of Takubo’s amendment.
“Because this is something we don’t quite understand, the legislature is going to step in and tell experts across the nation and the world how to treat patients that have a psychiatric condition?” Maroney asked. “That is such a bad precedent to set. We’re overwhelmingly pro-life here in this caucus. These kids commit suicide, and they’ll be some [more] suicides.”
“Who are we to win an election and start telling people how to practice medicine?” Maroney asked in conclusion. “I appreciate the senator’s (Takubo’s) amendment. It’s going to help some people.”
Senate Minority Leader Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, also spoke in support of the amendment, saying, “Moments ago, by a vote of 32 to one, this body (Senate) decided that 16 and 17 year-old kids, with their parents, could make a major life-altering decision to get married.”
Woelfel was referring to HB 3018, the so-called “Child Bride Act,” which seeks to establish 16 as the age of consent for marriage in West Virginia.
“I am a constitutional-lawyer,” Woelfel noted. “I do understand how the constitution works, and I can tell you that the State of Alabama passed a bill very similar to this, and it was declared unconstitutional last year – unconstitutional insofar as it related to these medications and gender-affirming decisions between mom, dad, kid, doctor. That court did so based on equal-protection considerations, and unjustified legislative-intrusion in the relationship between parents and children.”
Despite objections from Sen. Michael Azinger, R-Wood, who argued that puberty blockers and hormone therapies “to change the sex are self-evidently a fist in the face of the creator,” and Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, who compared the treatment of gender dysphoria to that of a headache, Takubo’s bill was adopted by the Senate.
A third amendment, proposed by Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, which would have added a requirement for medical providers to report their treatment practices to the legislature was rejected by Senate President Craig Blair.
The amended HB 2007 passed the House of Delegates on Saturday, once again, by a vote of 84 to 10. The bill will now be reported to Gov. Jim Justice for his consideration.
RealWV will provide updates regarding HB 2007 as additional information is made available.