The Utah House voted down a bill on Monday evening that would require the state health department to study the effects of hormone therapy and other medical treatment on transgender minors, despite the bill unanimously passing through a House committee last week.
Republican Orem Rep. Brad Daw’s House Bill 449 would direct the Utah Department of Health to conduct a review of existing medical and scientific research on “the diagnosis, treatment, and care of minors who are transgender,” according to the bill’s text.
Daw was originally considering a bill that would ban hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery for transgender minors. After talking with LGBTQ+ advocates and others who raised concerns over the proposed ban, Daw said he felt a bill calling for research into the subject was a better way to go.
“There’s a lot of information we don’t have,” Daw told the House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. “And so before we rush in and ban something completely, and maybe disrupt minors who are going through the treatment, which probably would be very problematic, let’s gather information.”
H.B. 449 overwhelmingly failed to pass through the House on Monday evening, with 17 representatives voting for it and 55 voting against it.
On Monday, Daw acknowledged the original proposed ban was “met with significant resistance and a lot of concern from the community and also from a lot of people that met with me personally.”
“Representatives, I understand that this bill has raised a lot of concern and a lot of controversy, and I appreciate that,” said Daw.
Still, Daw said there are “certain aspects of the transitioning procedure that give me great cause for concern.” For example, the puberty blocker Lupron has been shown to potentially cause negative side effects like sterility and blindness, according to Daw.
“In discussing this with a number of people, they made it sound like it was a fairly harmless procedure,” the Orem representative said. “But in digging into this any further, we find that this particular drug, and also just the whole idea of blocking puberty, is actually very problematic.”
Transgender Education Advocates of Utah Director Candice Metzler told the committee Thursday that transgender youth were "being targeted by this legislation."
"I'm not necessarily for or against it," Metzler said about funding research, "but I'm for putting resources towards things are are going to actually help this population instead of politicizing it."
By directing the health department to examine data on “the whole diagnosis and care of transgender minors,” Daw said lawmakers would be able to make the best health care decisions for young Utahns.
“It is very troubling to think that we may be in fact doing far more harm to our youth than the comfort that they would have received from not having to go through a puberty that they didn’t feel like was the right one for them,” said Daw.
Troy Williams, director of the LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Utah, said on Thursday that the bill’s move away from a hormone therapy ban and toward a study of existing research was a “positive step.”
“Of course, there’s still suspicion from our community that the study won’t be impartial, peer-reviewed or follow the scientific method,” Williams said. “Some worry that a political agenda will determine the outcomes.”
Equality Utah celebrated H.B. 449’s defeat on Twitter shortly after the House voted it down Monday evening.
“We are grateful to Rep. Daw for compassionately listening to the stories of transgender youth,” the group tweeted. “We will continue working to educate lawmakers on the health needs of the trans community.”