Maine lawmakers are considering a proposal that would expand access to sex-change drugs for minors, including in cases where the child’s parents object to the treatments.
Rep. Erin Sheehan (D-Biddeford) is the lead sponsor of a bill, LD 535, which would allow medical providers to provide sex-change hormones to 16- and 17-year-olds over the objections of parents or legal guardians, according to a draft copy of the bill obtained by the Maine Wire.
Under the proposal, medical providers would have to obtain written informed consent from minors, defined as between 16 and 18 years old, prior to administering the hormones, a process that would include explaining to the minors the consequences of cross-sex hormones.
The bill would also provide immunity to medical providers, including immunity against malpractice suits. That means parents will have no legal recourse if their 16-year-old daughter obtains cross-sex hormones over their objections.
The bill is a concept draft, which means the text isn’t publicly available through the State Legislature’s website, but the following draft circulated among lawmakers last week.
Debates over whether minors should receive puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones have roiled state legislatures across the country all year. While several Republican-controlled states have sought to limit the practices, Maine’s Democrat-controlled legislature is on track to pass several proposals that would legalize, protect, or expand the availability of sex-change related procedures for minors and children.
The debate is fraught with confused terms and euphemisms. Supporters of child sex-changes refer to the treatments as “gender affirming health care,” a phrase most mainstream media outlets have also adopted.
But critics of the policies believe that the only thing being affirmed is gender dysphoria, a psychological condition where an individual is uncomfortable with their physical sex characteristics, and that it’s unethical for doctors to provide life-altering gender drugs to children who cannot fully grasp the significance of the decision.
Although the text is not currently available publicly, lawmakers also debated last week an amendment to LD 535 that concerned the legality of administering sex-change drugs to children when parents do consent.
The bill’s language sets the age threshold for allowing such treatments around the time an individual starts puberty, which in some cases can be as early as six or seven years of age.
That means the bill, if the amendment is adopted, would effectively permit Maine medical providers to prescribe puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children as young as seven when their parents approve.
“We may see stages of puberty beginning for young girls as early as the age of seven. Was your intent with this bill to allow children at such a young age to be able, with, even with parental consent to be able to begin medical transitioning?” Rep. Rachael Henderson (R-Rumford) asked Sheehan, the bill’s sponsor, during the work session.
“I mean, not specifically. But I do think it’s important to recognize that puberty is sometimes starts for some children very early,” said Sheehan.
Sheehan then defended the amendment by raising the example of precocious puberty, a rare but recognized medical condition in which children enter puberty far earlier than typical.
Most commonly used puberty blockers were developed for such cases and are already permitted under law.
But Henderson refocused the conversation on the use of such puberty blockers not for precocious puberty, but specifically for cases where parents wish to transition the gender of their children.
“This bill specifically is talking about gender affirming hormone therapy,” said Henderson. “And according to current medical practices, it would mean that gender affirming hormone therapy could be started on girls as young as the age of seven.”