INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would ban hormone therapy and puberty blockers for transgender youth in Indiana moved forward another step in the legislative process today.
Lawmakers in the House’s Public Health Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 480, which already passed in the Senate earlier this session.
The debate over the proposed law led to four hours of testimony Tuesday morning in front of lawmakers on the committee who heard from doctors, parents and transgender youths themselves, who would all be impacted if this bill becomes a law.
Even before testimony began, the debate started outside the House Chamber and continued through testimony.
About 100 people showed up to protest SB 480 and the message they said it sends to Indiana’s transgender kids and their families, like Michelle Carr, who has an 18-year-old transgender child.
"They feel like the Statehouse is attacking them, is bullying them, making their life harder for no reason other than they exist," said Carr.
Just inside the doors of the House chamber, 14-year-old transgender male Silver Farrell expressed a similar sentiment, testifying in front of lawmakers, comparing those who support the bill to some of the kids at school.
"I never thought the government, grown adults, would turn into my middle school bullies," Farrell said.
SB 480 would prohibit doctors from being able to prescribe hormones or puberty blockers to transgender youth under 18, like Farrell, even if they had parental consent.
Teens who are already taking such medications would have six months to get off them if the proposed law is adopted.
Farrell testified he just started taking hormones and would be one of them.
"I feel like I have something to live for and now what? You’re just going to take it all away with this bill?" he asked. "You don’t have to agree with us, but at least respect us as human beings and respect our parents who are making decisions to save our lives."
The proposed law would also ban gender transition surgeries on anyone under 18, something Indiana doctors have testified is not happening in Indiana now.
Supporters of SB 480, including some doctors like Sen. Dr. Tyler Johnson, R-District 14, who wrote the bill, said it protects kids from making decisions they may regret later in their life.
"It would cause far less harm for these kids to wait, get the counseling they need and let them make these life-altering decisions as adults," Johnson told the committee.
In testimony from other doctors who also support the proposed law, lawmakers heard that hormone therapy and puberty blockers were not the right courses of treatment for transgender kids.
"Puberty blockers could further the social isolation individuals experience from their peers by removing them from their puberty cohort," testified Dr. Michael Padilla, who practices family medicine.
"I don’t think we know the long-term consequences of our current one-track therapy," added Linda Strickland, a retired assistant professor at IU School of Medicine and also a licensed nurse practitioner.
Some people who said they had de-transitioned also spoke in support of the bill.
"My heart breaks for the young people who are being lied to by well-meaning enablers as they will need to learn the same painful lesson that I learned," said Corrina Cohn, who explained she started taking estrogen at 15 and had surgery in another state soon after.
"There is no evidence to support the current practice of transgender medicine on children," said Cohn. "It’s happening in Indiana, and it needs to stop."
Other adults who are transgender spoke out against the bill, including Emma Vosicky with Gender Nexus, an organization that offers support to transgender people and their families.
"If you’re transgender and you are watching your body moving in a way that actually undercuts who you are, that is terrifying," Vosicky told lawmakers. "It leads to depression. It leads to anxiety, and I know it because I had to live it."
Tuesday’s hearing also saw testimony from doctors and therapists who do not support SB 480.
"This bill inserts elected officials into the exam room," said Dr. Haley Pritchard, an infectious disease doctor with IU Health Physicians.
"In my practice, I have seen firsthand the benefits of gender-affirming care that we have on our young people," Dr. Tony GiaQuinta, a pediatrician, testified.
GiaQuinta said he was also there as a representative of Indiana’s Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"I need to be able to refer my patients to experts in their area of medicine, one that I know will help them get the care and resources they need to live happy and healthy fulfilling lives," said GiaQuinta.
If SB 480 becomes law, transgender kids would still have access to mental health services.
"We don’t provide just mental health care for other conditions, and we should not for this one. These youth need more," said licensed social worker Dr. Richard Brandon Friedman, who said he was also there as a representative of Indiana’s chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "I don’t see youth that come back and say they regretted their care. What I see are youth who change for the positive."
One mother’s testimony spoke to that.
"This has literally been a lifesaver for us," said mom Larisha Hanks of the hormones her transgender son just started taking. "I finally got my son back and I’ve seen joy on his face for the past 32 days."
It’s a joy she said SB 480 would take away.
But this mother fears an even worse consequence if it becomes law.
"Please vote no, so I don’t have to plan my son’s funeral," she told lawmakers.
SB 480 passed out of committee by a vote of 8-5. It now goes to the House floor, where lawmakers in the entire body can offer changes to it.