COLUMBIA — South Carolina would ban gender reassignment surgery or treatment for children under 18 under a newly filed Statehouse bill.
State Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, said Thursday his proposal is in response to a Texas custody case that’s drawn national attention in which a mother wants her 7 year old to undergo gender reassignment surgery over the father's objections.
"It’s almost been weaponized, and this is to protect children," Jones said.
While he is personally opposed to gender reassignment, Jones said he is not looking to bar the practice for people ages 18 or older.
“For a child, it’s a whole different matter," Jones said. "Somebody under 18, they can’t buy cigarettes and alcohol, and so they shouldn’t be able to have a sex change.”
The bill is designed to prevent kids “from being pressured or bullied in any kind of circumstance to have their gender reassigned,” Jones said.
Chase Glenn, executive director of LGBTQ-rights advocacy group Alliance for Full Acceptance in Charleston, said Jones’ proposal goes too far.
“This is obviously a very troubling bill. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that we’re talking about, with an already high suicide rate,” he said. “This could have disastrous implications.”
State lawmakers in 2017 failed to act on a controversial “bathroom bill” that would have required people to use a restroom based on their birth gender. Then-Gov. Nikki Haley said the ban could cripple the economy.
Similar legislation banning transgender reassignment and treatments for children has been introduced in other states including Alaska, Illinois and Texas, according to BillTrack50, a legislative search engine.
According to data released in September 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, less than 1 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. More than half have contemplated suicide.
The academy, which represents 67,000 primary-care doctors, issued its first policy statement on the care of transgender youth last year and included among its recommendations “providing youth with access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.”
Jones' legislation comes at a troubling time for the state's transgender population. Four transgender women have been killed in South Carolina since 2018.
His bill would not only prohibit gender reassignment surgery for children but also blocks them from receiving hormone treatments or other related medication.
The measure lays out punitive action for doctors who violate the law, triggering a review by the state Board of Medical Examiners that could lead to a license being suspended or revoked.
Jones is the bill’s only sponsor, but he’s spoken with colleagues about picking up support once the General Assembly convenes in January.