INDIANAPOLIS — Members of the Indiana Senate serving on the Health and Provider Services Committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that proposes banning gender transitioning procedures and treatment for anyone under the age of 18.

Senate Bill 480 passed in an 8-3 vote while opponents could be heard protesting outside the chamber. State Senator Venta Becker was the lone Republican to join both Democrats who serve on the committee in voting against the bill.

An amendment added to the bill by the committee clarified that counseling and mental health services would still be available and not be banned as part of the bill. The bill would prohibit minors from accessing gender-affirming medical or surgical treatment, however, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers.

State Sen. Tyler Johnson (R-Ft. Wayne) stated he recognized the emotion around the issue of gender transitioning but said a “child cannot understand the weight and permanency” when it came to making such decisions.

Testimony was heard from both those who opposed the bill and those who supported it during the emotional committee hearing on Wednesday.

A representative from IU Health told the committee that Riley Children’s Hospital doesn’t provide gender-affirming surgeries on anyone under the age of 18. A doctor from Riley did state that hormones are sometimes prescribed in low doses and called the gender care program “life-saving care” for transgender children.

Jenny Boyts, the board president of Indy Pride, also referred to gender-affirming care as life-saving and called it a right for transgender communities.

“This gender-affirming scientifically-based services that they get is life-saving for so many years and so many adults across the state,” Boyts said.

Partners for Ethical Care, who support the bill, argued against there being evidence that gender transitioning care is life-saving care. A doctor from Fort Wayne also testified expressing concern about the safety of hormone treatments for youth.

The bill will now advance to the Senate floor for a full vote.

The ACLU of Indiana opposed the ban and called it harmful for transgender youth.

“Today, despite the opposition of all legitimate medical organizations, the Indiana Senate Health and Provider Services Committee voted to strip parents of their rights to make age-appropriate medical decisions for their children by banning gender-affirming medical care for trans youth.

“Indiana legislators are risking the lives of young people by forcing their way into family decision-making, a fundamental right which has traditionally been protected against government intrusion. Gender-affirming medical care for trans youth is safe, effective, and life-saving care. The ACLU of Indiana stands ready to defend the freedom of families to make these decisions for their children.” 

Wednesday’s hearing came just days after another contentious debate over a bill limiting classroom discussion of ‘human sexuality’ in grades K-3.

Katie Blair, ACLU of Indiana Advocacy and Public Policy Director

State Senator Sheli Yoder (D-Bloomington) also opposed the bill and accused it of targeting an already vulnerable segment of youth.

“This Legislature has decided its newest target is children who are already particularly vulnerable: 30% of people with gender dysphoria will attempt suicide. For reference, that’s about 100 times the rate of the general U.S. population. We know gender-affirming care can bring that number back to baseline–it’s literally lifesaving. The total ban set down by SB 480 signals that the majority has not seriously engaged with peer-reviewed science, healthcare providers, or the families and children who choose this care. 

“This bill attempts no scientific understanding, nuance or compassion—it simply legislates trans youth out of existence. In a session we’ve largely devoted to improving healthcare, this is a huge step backward, a slap in the face to the practitioners who overwhelmingly opposed the bill, and a death sentence for members of the trans community in Indiana.”

Sheli Yoder