After more than an hour of debate, West Virginia delegates passed a bill that would ban aspects of gender affirming care for minors.
House Bill 2007 was passed 84-10 with six members absent. The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
“Even if the surgeries aren’t happening now, it doesn’t mean they won’t be happening next year if we don’t do something,” said Delegate Geno Chiarelli, R-Monongalia. “We have the rare opportunity to be preemptive. We can be proactive instead of reactive. That’s the kind of conservative legislators that our citizens want.
“This body effectively banned abortion last year, and now there’s more of us than there were before. There’s a clear appetite for this kind of legislation, and I encourage you all to vote yes.”
The original version of House Bill 2007, “Prohibiting certain medical practices,” focused on irreversible gender-affirming surgery. A revised version advanced this week by the House Judiciary Committee also includes gender-altering medication.
“It’s not just about the surgery,” said Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia. “It’s about the ability of our doctors and our medical professionals to provide a wide range of gender-affirming care to our youth without forcing our doctors to withhold healthcare that’s now available to our kids.”
Supporters pointed generally toward news coverage of gender-affirming procedures elsewhere and said the policy is meant to ensure West Virginia doesn’t face growing acceptance of the treatment.
“We are taking on the issues of the social winds that are blowing across this country,” said Delegate Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier. “And we’re not only trying to react, but we’re trying to get a step ahead and preemptively take steps in advance of the danger that is coming.”
Critics of the bill have said such surgery doesn’t occur in West Virginia because medical providers already have policy against it. On the issue of medicines such as hormone blockers, critics have said the government is getting in the way of decisions that should be among medical professionals, youths and their families.
Delegate Shawn Fluharty asked a series of questions of House Judiciary Chair Moore Capito about whether the surgery even happens in the state.
“Can you provide us from any evidence from Judiciary Committee or otherwise that these surgeries are even taking place in West Virginia?” asked Fluharty, D-Ohio.
Capito, R-Kanawha, responded, “There was no testimony provided in committee that there are surgeries taking place.”
Delegate John Williams, D-Monongalia, pushed back on that point. “I want to make crystal clear one aspect of this bill that keeps being repeated over and over again. There are no surgeries happening in the state of West Virginia. None. None,” he said.
And Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, contended the main reason for the bill is political.
“Once again, we have politics over people. We have put politics over healthcare. We have put politics over bodily autonomy. We have put politics over parental consent. We have put politics over the privacy of patients,” Walker said.
“We have put politics over evidence-based healthcare. We have put politics over families. We have put politics over our children. We have put politics over the trans community. We have put politics over the trans youth in our mountain state.”