Georgia lawmaker targets doctors with ‘trans panic’ bill

Medical professionals who provide hormone treatments or perform gender affirmation surgery on minors could go to prison for up to 10 years if a new bill filed Thursday becomes Georgia law. 

State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, a Republican from Marietta, titled House Bill 1060 the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act.” Ehrhart (photo) announced plans to file the bill in October, sparking immediate backlash from LGBTQ activists and lawmakers.

HB 1060 would prohibit licensed medical professionals from giving hormone treatments to or performing gender affirmation surgery on minors “for the purpose of attempting to affirm the minor’s perception of such minor’s sex, if that perception is inconsistent with such minor’s sex,” according to the bill.

The prohibited procedures include castration, vasectomies, hysterectomies, oophorectomies, metoidioplasty, orchiectomies, penectomies, phalloplasty, vaginoplasty and mastectomies. 

Intersex children are exempt from the bans on hormone treatments and gender affirmation surgery, according to the bill.

Medical professionals who violate the law would be charged with a felony carrying a term of one to 10 years in prison. They will also lose their medical license if convicted of the charge. 

State Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Democrat from Brookhaven, called the bill “completely misguided.”

“[It] should really be named the ‘Trans Panic’ bill,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “It is not based in reality and inappropriately interjects the state where it has no business being – between Georgia families and their doctors.”

Wilson, one of five LGBTQ lawmakers in the state legislature, said he’s already reached out to House colleagues about the harm the bill could bring. 

“I am hopeful that reasonable minds will prevail and we can agree to leave the practicing of medicine to the trained professionals,” he said. 

A spokesperson for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta expressed concern about the bill. CHOA is one of the largest pediatric health care providers in the country. It served over 430,000 patients in Georgia in 2018, according to its website.

“We are evaluating the bill and are concerned about the implications for the families that approach us for the services we provide,” said Amelia Hess, CHOA’s associate public relations coordinator. “At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we are committed to caring for all kids in an empathetic, accepting and supportive environment.”

“The physical, mental and emotional health of our pediatric patients is at the forefront of everything we do,” she added.

Ehrhart’s bill has 18 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republicans. They are Reps. Ron Stephens of Savannah, Rick Jasperse of Jasper, Mark Newton of Augusta, Jesse Petrea of Savannah, John Carson of Marietta, Josh Bonner of Fayetteville, James Burchett of Waycross, Jason Ridley of Chatsworth, John LaHood of Valdosta, Rick Williams of Milledgeville, Danny Mathis of Cochran, Wes Cantrell of Woodstock, Matthew Gambill of Cartersville, Mitchell Scoggins of Cartersville, Steven Sainz of Woodbine, Matt Barton of Calhoun, Karen Mathiak of Griffin and Martin Momtahan of Dallas.

Four of the co-sponsors are committee chairs: Stephens (Economic Development & Tourism), Jasperse (Education), Newton (Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care) and Petrea (Human Relations & Aging).

Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Quentin Van Meter vouched for the bill in October. Van Meter is the leader of an anti-LGBTQ hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A group of six psychologists, nurses and doctors in Georgia joined nearly 300 others across the South to sign a letter “strongly opposing” such legislation earlier this month. 

Ehrhart compared transgender people to moose during her 2018 campaign. Her opponent at the time, LGBTQ ally Jen Slipakoff, has a trans daughter. Ehrhart won the election after her husband, Earl Ehrhart, retired from the legislature after becoming its most outspoken anti-LGBTQ member.

Ginny Ehrhart vowed to revive a push for anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” legislation in the 2019 session, but no such bills passed.

She also spoke out against a bill that would ban conversion therapy for minors during a hearing at the state Capitol in March. Ehrhart objected to transgender children being included in the bill.