A transgender rights advocate holds a sign

A transgender rights advocate holds a sign outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus on June 24, 2021.

(Photo: Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

'Lives Will Be Saved': Ohio Gov. Vetoes Trans Youth Healthcare, Sports Bans

"Thank you to Gov. DeWine for listening to the people of his state and making the right decision for young trans Ohioans," said one advocate.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates on Friday praised Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for vetoing a bill that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth and bar them from participating in school sports teams that match their identity.

"Ohio families don't want politicians meddling in decisions that should be between parents, their kids, and their doctors," said Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson in a statement.

"Instead, parents, schools, and doctors should all do everything they can to make all youth, including transgender youth, feel loved and accepted, and politicians should not be making it harder for them to do so," she added. "Thank you to Gov. DeWine for listening to the people of his state and making the right decision for young trans Ohioans."

Thanking DeWine on social media, ACLU of Ohio executive director J. Bennett Guess stressed that "lives will be saved because of this critically important veto!"

Also welcoming the veto, the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers said: "This is the result of advocacy of trans folks and their families, providers, and advocates. Thank you all for taking action. Our advocacy action steps continue. Now we need to contact our Ohio legislators to urge them not to overturn the veto."

Some Republican state lawmakers expressed disappointment with the governor's decision and teased an override effort. The Associated Pressreported Friday that "GOP lawmakers hold enough seats to override DeWine's veto, but if or when they would do so was not immediately clear. Both within and between chambers, Republican legislators have not been in lockstep this year."

Several GOP-dominated states have recently moved to restrict gender-affirming care, especially for minors. In 2021, then-Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a healthcare ban targeting youth. State lawmakers overrode his veto, but a federal judge struck down the law in June. Earlier this week, another judge blocked a similar law in Idaho.

As for athletics, two dozen states have enacted laws or regulations preventing students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, often targeting trans girls, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Some of those bans are currently blocked—including one in Utah, where Republican Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed the bill last year but state lawmakers swiftly overrode the veto. Cox notably signed a ban on gender-affirming care for youth earlier this year.

After the Ohio Legislature passed House Bill 68 earlier this month, Nick Lashutka, president and CEO of the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, pointed out that "we do not perform any surgeries on minors for the condition of gender dysphoria."

"If this bill becomes law," he warned, "it will be devastating to kids and their families who are already at their most vulnerable and will place an insurmountable barrier between patients and their medical professionals for often lifesaving care."

DeWine, who visited children's hospitals and spoke with families before announcing the veto, echoed medical professionals on Friday. As The Washington Postreported:

"This bill would impact a very small number of Ohio's children. But for those children who face gender dysphoria, the consequences of this bill could not be more profound. Ultimately I believe this is about protecting human life," DeWine said Friday during a news conference announcing the decision. "Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived, would be dead today, if they had not received the treatment they received from one of Ohio's children's hospitals."

"These are gut-wrenching decisions that should be made by parents and should be informed by teams of doctors who are advising them," DeWine continued. "Were I to sign House Bill 68, or were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is medically best for a child than the two people who love that child the most: the parents."

The Columbus Dispatch noted that DeWine "said his administration will draft rules to ban surgery for patients under 18, collect data on transgender medical care for adults and children, and restrict pop-up clinics that don't provide adequate mental health counseling."

While welcoming the veto as "crucial" and "extraordinary," trans activist and content creator Erin Reed also highlighted the caveats, saying that "the most concerning aspect of Gov. DeWine's announcement was the potential for increased scrutiny of transgender adults in Ohio."

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