Ohio Hospitals Testify On Trans Care Ban: "You Trust Us On Every Other Condition, Please Trust Us On This One"
In a hearing on a gender affirming care ban for transgender youth in Ohio, the presidents of some of the top pediatric hospitals in the United States testified against trans care bans.
Yesterday, Ohio held a hearing for House Bill 68, a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth and force those already on care to medically detransition. The hearing was primarily for opponents of the bill—a prior proponent hearing had already happened a week earlier. Testimony stretched on for nearly eight hours, with those submitting testimony against the bill outnumbering supporters 7:1. Testimony came from a wide variety of professionals and those with lived experience, including transgender kids, their doctors, parents, educators, social workers, and more. Perhaps the strongest testimony of the afternoon, though, came when presidents and leaders representing some of the top hospitals in the United States stepped forward and unequivocally condemned the bill, stating that it would have drastic negative health consequences for trans youth in their care.
At the beginning of the hearing, three leaders in US medical care testified together: Nick Lashutka, President of the Ohio Children's Hospitals Association serving over 2,600,000 children in the region; Dr. Steve Davis, President of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, the US News #1 ranked children's hospital in the United States; and Dr. Shefali Mahesh, who represented Akron Children's Hospital. All of them delivered extremely strong testimony, dispelling myths about trans care. They testified that bans on care would harm an already extremely vulnerable population and that gender-affirming care was the best option for the few trans youth who do ultimately get cleared for medical transition. Perhaps the strongest moment of the night was when Dr. Davis looked at the committee and pleaded, “You trust us on every other condition. Please, trust us on this one.”
Watch their incredible testimony here:
When Lashutka spoke, he testified that trans care at Ohio Children's Hospitals is cautious and measured. He stated that in Ohio Children's Hospitals, patients see multidisciplinary teams and often have long waiting periods before they obtain gender-affirming care. He also noted that the percentage of youth obtaining gender-affirming care in Ohio is only 0.0003%, a tiny fraction not just of youth in Ohio, but also of trans youth in Ohio. He likewise dispelled the idea that teens are getting care without their parents' knowing: “All treatment requires parental consent.”
Lashutka, addressing the idea that trans youth are too easily given medical treatments, stated that care is only given to patients meeting rigorous requirements: “Individuals diagnosed with this condition are insistent, consistent, and persistent for a lengthy period of time. The notion that kids declare a feeling and are immediately prescribed at one of our clinics is not true.”
Speaking next was Dr. Davis, who testified not just as the president of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, but as a pediatric critical care physician with 35 years of clinical care experience. He stated, when discussing the gender-affirming care ban and its potential profound negative mental health effects on trans youth, “the most harrowing part of my job is informing parents that their child died, especially when their death was from a preventable suicide.”
He then stated that the gender-affirming care provided by his hospital is done only after “comprehensive assessments, rigorous mental health evaluations, and screening for comorbidities.” He rebuked the idea that hormone therapy in trans youth is done without thorough evaluation, stating that the average time of the evaluation period is “10-12 months.” Lastly, he stated that there is no financial incentive to providing this care and that they do not make money on it - a reasonable claim given that hormone therapy tends to be relatively inexpensive, and that trans youth are not provided surgery in the Ohio Children's Hospital system. He closed, stating, “You trust us on every other condition. Please, trust us on this one.”
Dr. Mahesh testified to another aspect of the bill. She stated that increasingly, doctors are having to provide care for patients who have been purchasing hormones off the internet. She indicated that, should a bill like this pass, black and gray market medication might become more common, and that patients would be driven to taking care into their own hands rather than trusting their doctors to administer their care.
Though opposing the bill in its entirety, Lashutka recommended four amendments should the bill pass. First, those already receiving care should be grandfathered in. Second, the “aiding and abetting” clause barring mental health doctors from referrals should be stricken. Third, allowing physicians to provide all information around care, which the bill bars. Lastly, adding an exception for trans youth who show extreme dysphoria to get care. This last exception was passed in West Virginia’s ban on care.
Though hospital administrators have testified in other hearings in the past, this particular panel of healthcare leaders is perhaps one of the strongest seen in any hearing across the United States. The hospitals they represent and the number of patients they serve could give pause even to the most ardent supporters of the bill. They are also enormously respected voices for all pediatric care in Ohio and even nationwide - many of the legislators in Ohio likely have children who went to these hospitals, and many of the legislators themselves likely did when they were younger. Their presence, along with the massive showing in opposition to the bill, may have made an impact; while some thought the bill would receive a vote immediately after the hearing, those plans appeared to be scrapped. The hearing adjourned without a vote, and advocates for trans youth care left knowing they had given their all.