State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, wants to make it a felony to change a child’s gender through surgery or drugs and plans to introduce her “Vulnerable Child Protection Act” in the Georgia General Assembly.

Ehrhart issued a news release Wednesday morning announcing her sponsorship of the new bill, for consideration in the 2020 Georgia legislative session starting in January.

“The Vulnerable Child Protection Act is not an attempt to infringe on the rights of adults to make lifestyle choices for themselves,” Ehrhart said in her news release. “This is about children who are being abused by adults.”

The proposed bill, if passed through the Georgia Senate and signed into law, would make it a felony crime to perform “radical” surgery on, or administer drugs to a minor for the purpose of attempting to change their gender. This would include sterilization, mastectomy, vasectomy, castration and other forms of genital mutilation, as well as any medication that causes infertility or blocks or delays “normal” puberty, according to Ehrhart’s news release.

The act would also make it illegal to give a male child estrogen or a female child testosterone for gender change purposes, Ehrhart said.

The removal of otherwise healthy or non-diseased body parts from minor children would also be prohibited, her news release stated.

She said such “child abuse” is “becoming a serious problem in Georgia and is evolving into national crisis,” citing her research of the topic over the past 18 months.

“I believe the time is now to strike while the iron’s hot,” Ehrhart told the MDJ. “There is an alarming trend in this country, as evidenced by stories we’ve seen in the news media, and I have received many concerning phone calls and emails from constituents and Georgians across the state that are concerned about the trend in treating the issue of gender dysphoria.”

Ehrhart did not want to detail specific cases, but said she knows several parents and families in Georgia who have aided gender changes or transitions for their children under the age of 18 and had a hard time of it.

“Sex reassignment surgery in children does occur, I’ve spoken with families that have walked this path. Some are willing to come and testify before House committees and some are not, but they are nonetheless a valuable resource,” Ehrhart said.

She said she knows there are doctors in Georgia who are willing to perform radical gender change surgery or prescribe medication for this, and they are the ones targeted by her proposed law in its current draft form.

“We’re still dealing with the issue on the parents’ side,” she said. “In its present draft, the law specifically deals with the health care professionals licensed in the state of Georgia to perform these procedures or prescribe these drugs. This is not about adults changing their gender after the age of consent, or an indictment of the transgender community.”

Ehrhart said there are no reliable or reputable studies on the long-term effects of administering gender change or puberty blocking medication to children, which is another motivation behind her bill to “codify” legal and illegal practices.

“We are talking about children who have not reached the legal age of consent and yet are being subjected to life-altering, irreversible surgeries and drug treatments that render them sterile and permanently disfigured,” she said. “The psychological damage this does to innocent children must come to an end. This legislation makes such abusive actions criminal.”

Controversy

Ehrhart’s proposed law is already controversial, despite it still being finalized.

Chanel Haley, the gender policy manager for Georgia Equality and the Equality Foundation of Georgia, said she is baffled by the proposed legislation, because the gender change measures it references, like castration and sterilization, are simply not happening to children.

Chanel Haley Mug.jpg

Chanel Haley

“There’s not a doctor in this state that’s ever done genital surgery on a child to change their gender in the ways described,” Haley said in reference to Ehrhart’s news release. “Any surgeries or procedures on a minor are thoughtfully thought out between the parent and the doctor.”

Georgia Equality is an Atlanta-based state organization aimed at advancing fairness, safety and opportunity for Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied communities.

Haley said doctors universally follow best practice standards when treating trans patients — standards set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, formerly the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.

A doctor who performed genital gender change surgery on a child, as described by Ehrhart, could be in conflict of these standards as well as the American Medical Association guidelines, Haley said.

“Everybody goes by these rules, it’s how it’s always been,” she said about WPATH and AMA standards. “This whole thing (the proposed law) is just a waste of time and it’s not only an attack on the transgender community, it’s an attack on Atlanta because there is a large LGBTQ community here.”

Ehrhart’s opponent in last November’s general election, Democrat Jen Slipakoff, is also critical of the proposed legislation, calling it an “egregious overstep of the government’s role in a doctor-patient relationship.”

Jen Slipakoff mug

Jen Slipakoff

“It’s also incredibly ill-informed,” Slipakoff told the MDJ. “It concerns me that Mrs. Ehrhart doesn’t have a grasp on some of the most basic treatments involved in the transition process yet feels qualified to write legislation making it illegal. For example, children are not being castrated — that’s simply not a thing that is even happening.”

Slipakoff has an 11-year-old transgender daughter.

Asked whether she herself would be a felon under Ehrhart’s proposed law, Slipakoff said she is “less concerned with my status as a felon and more concerned with how this law will be put into effect,” including who would be responsible for sharing private medical records of minors with law enforcement.

“It’s clear to me the proposed legislation is based on complete ignorance,” Slipakoff said. “A transgender child is not experiencing a whimsical phase. A transgender child is experiencing extreme dysphoria, anxiety and trauma. Outlawing treatment is not the way to manage this trauma. In fact, lack of access to care is a leading cause for suicide and suicide attempts among the trans community.”

Slipakoff, who is also part of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Atlanta, said metro Atlanta has almost 1,000 homeless LGBTQ youth, and that is the real crisis.

“Giving children completely reversible puberty blockers to help assuage anxiety and trauma is not a crisis,” she said. “The fear with this law is there will be an uptick in suicide among trans and non-binary youth, an increase in depression reported among trans youth and a dangerous precedent set for the government and its role in the lives of a child’s most private part of life.”

Support

But Ehrhart has the support of at least one medical professional — Dr. Quentin Van Meter, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at both the Emory University and Morehouse College schools of medicine, who has his own pediatric endocrinology clinic in Atlanta to treat children with growth and hormone-related disorders.

Dr. Quentin Van Meter Mug.jpg

Quentin Van Meter

Ehrhart quotes Van Meter in her news release as saying there is no valid scientific long-term evidence of forced gender change in children being either safe or effective, but “ample evidence” to the contrary.

“This bill is of utmost importance because it will put a stop to the process of trying to convert a child’s physical appearance to that of the opposite sex, resulting in irreversible, medically harmful changes,” Van Meter said. “Children should be protected from medical experimentation based on wishful social theory. These children are suffering from a psychological condition without biological basis.”

According to the Georgia General Assembly’s website, pre-filing of legislation for the 2020 legislative session opens on Nov. 15.

Ehrhart said she will be pre-filing her bill, once the final draft is finished.

“We have a draft that I’m happy with but we’re meeting with legislative counsel to make sure we have a solid, well constructed, well thought out bill that I hope will be supported by the majority of House members, and not just conservatives. I have Democrat friends that feel the way that I do about this issue.”

— Article updated Nov. 1, 2019

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(19) comments

Comment deleted.
Maddy Baxter

Glad someone stepping up to the plate in protecting children from adult Munchausen.

Johanna Williams

Ehrhart is woefully misinformed about transgendered persons, not to mention being hateful. It is my personal experience that the citizens of Cobb county do not agree with Ehrhart's view of transgendered issues. I am quite open about being transgendered, as a I travel around Cobb county, and I find our citizens not only informed but also very understanding and supportive of transgendered persons.

Ehrhart represents a very small minority people, when it comes to her mistaken misinformed view of transgendered issues.

Attn MDJ: I am a transgendered person. If you call yourself a "balanced" member of the media, are you going to allow me to voice my side of the issue, or are you going just delete any remarks that don't tow your party line? We shall see.

Karen Mellott

I agree that the children in question are vulnerable. The stress of prejudice and discrimination, as well as feelings of social isolation, are risk factors for suicide, and common among transgender individuals. On the other hand, family acceptance, connections to friends and a sense of safety are considered factors that protect against suicide. Misinformed and cruel individuals like Ginny Ehrhart are the ones who our children need to be protected from. I know this issue is still difficult for many to understand, but I urge those individuals to seek out information from quality sources and to open their minds and hearts to individuals who are extremely vulnerable. One great book is called This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Although the book is fiction, the author has a transgender child, and the book does a great job of portraying the family’s difficulty in understanding the issue, sorting through research, and figuring out how to support their child.

dawn ey

Ms. Ehrhart is right. Trans kids are vulnerable, but it's not from their parents or doctors...it's from legislators like her who would use a child's vulnerability to garner votes from uninformed citizens.

I urge her (or anyone) to look at the American Academy of Pediatricians statement on support and care for the transgender child (not the American College of Pediatrics). Proper medical care for this vulnerable group is a matter of life and death. Criminalizing it is dangerous.

https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Policy-Statement-Urges-Support-and-Care-of-Transgender-and-Gender-Diverse-Children-and-Adolescents.aspx

Karen Mellott

Dr. Quentin Van Meter, the endocrinologist backing Rep Erhart's proposed legislation, is a Fellow of the American College of Pediatricians, a recognized hate group. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/american-college-pediatricians

Johanna Williams

I challenge the MDJ to reach out to the transgender community and get our FIRST HAND experience with the issues raised by Ehrhart. Metro Atlanta is served by numerous transgender organizations. How about reaching out to them?

A free, open, and robust discussion of these issues would best serve the voters and citizens of Cobb county.

Based on the fact the MDJ is deleting relevant postings from a transgendered person, I doubt this will happen. Moreover, I doubt this post will see the light of day either. Very very disappointing MDJ! Particularly so, since this is a current issue, which the public is ready to be educated about. Ehrhart's conception of transgender issues are completely false and have absolutely no basis in fact or medical science.

Gail Gilvin

I’m relieved my state may enact legislation making it a felony for a doctor to change a child’s gender through surgery or drugs. On the other hand, I’m appalled Chanel Haley, gender policy manager for the Equality Foundation of Georgia, and Jen Slipakoff, part of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Atlanta, oppose any such legislation and accuse Rep. Ehrhart of being incredibly misinformed. According to Chanel Haley, “The gender change measures it references are not happening to children, either in Georgia or elsewhere in the United States.” Ms. Slipakoff apparently agrees, saying “children are not being castrated — that’s simply not a thing that is even happening.”

The accusation Rep. Ehrhart is the one ”incredibly misinformed” as to whether doctors are providing minors with puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgery seems quite disingenuous in view of their first-hand experiences with gender dysphoria. Chanel Haley is a transgender woman, and according to this article, “Slipakoff has an 11-year-old transgender daughter. Asked whether she herself would be a felon under Ehrhart’s proposed law, Slipakoff said she is ‘less concerned with my status as a felon and more concerned with how this law will be put into effect’.”

To determine who is telling the truth about minors in our country being chemically or physically castrated - what many endocrinologists consider child abuse - one need only to do a simple internet search. The Learning Channel even devoted an episode of their reality show “I Am Jazz” to the subject.

Johanna Williams

@Gail Gilvin

It would establish your credibility, if you would share your standing, when discussing issues affecting the transgendered community. Meaning, what is your interest in this topic? For instance, are you a health professional, are you transgendered, clergy, etc? Please share with us?

I speak, as a transgendered person.

You state you are interested in the truth. Yes, we all are. However, an internet search is not a place to find the truth. Yes, the net is a great tool, but it is not the place to find the truth.

Castration is a term that is bandied about by people who do not have the vaguest idea what they are talking about. Endocrinologists are doctors, and all doctors have different opinions about anything. Moreover, is any particular doctor even qualified to render an opinion on a particular subject? Your statement, "...what many endocrinologists consider child abuse...," is vague and undocumented, at best.

The "I Am Jazz" story has been around for a while. It is just one story and dubious, at best. Who knows which parts of Jazz's story are true and which are not? I would suggest you talk to real transgendered persons and not form an opinion based on some TV show. Reality shows are intended for entertainment and most definitely not for researching factual truth.

Do you have an open mind Ms. Gilvin? Do you realize virtually every transgendered person is on a unique individual journey?

Do you understand the difference between sex and gender? In my travels around Cobb county, I find most people do not, but I do find that most of our fine Cobb county citizens do have open minds and will listen, when I explain the differences.

Ehrhart and her husband have well-established hostile attitudes toward the transgendered community. That is truly a shame, and it would be interesting to learn why?

Gail Gilvin

Not sure what credentials you feel are needed in order to “discuss issues affecting the transgendered community”. The opinions I expressed when commenting on Rep. Ehrhart’s legislation were not directed at the transgendered community, but a result of the disgust I have for the medical and pharmaceutical communities which make millions of dollars medicating and mutilating the bodies of our children. I referenced Chanel Haley and Jen Slipakoff because with their backgrounds I couldn’t believe they didn’t know doctors were sterilizing and performing mastectomies on minors.

What I’ve learned from my research over the past several months, plus my experiences as a caring mother, grandmother, and life-long tomboy, convince me minors need to be protected from adults who would make life-altering decisions for them. This opinion is not only based on the personal stories of young people who began transitioning at an early age - many of whom have since either come to regret their decision or detransitioned - but at the paucity of oversight and research into the long term effects on these young people.

As to whether I have an open mind, the answer is yes. My motto is actually “Question Everything” when doing research, then I apply what I consider to be common sense as well as personal experience to form my opinion.

Johanna Williams

@Gail Gilvin

Your vague and very generalized views tell me you lack specific facts and personal experiences with transgendered persons. You mention your "research." Have you ever attended a PFLAG support meeting? There, you would hear the personal stories of transgendered people and their families. Castration? I cannot recall the last time I heard that word at a PFLAG meeting or from another transgendered person.

Here in the United States sexual reassignment surgery is not something performed on a hunch or a whim. A very long course of psychological counseling conducted by a PhD level clinical psychologist is required long before anyone would consider surgery. Another requirement is living in the gender of choice for several years, while continuing psychological counseling. There are other requirements. Why don't you take the time to "research" them?

You never did respond to my question about sex and gender? That is very basic to any discussion of any transgender topic.

You say you are concerned about the medical and pharmaceutical fields making money? I venture to say that is a whole separate topic, better left for a discussion of healthcare in general in the United States. Many transgendered people take hormones, but again, these are taken while under the supervision of a clinical psychologist and a specialist medical doctor.

Gosh Ms Gilvin, I do appreciate all your interest in transgendered people, like me. Just remain objective and do not permit yourself to become hateful and hostile like Ehrhart is.

CRAIG BARFIELD

Right on.

Marie Lee

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to hear that Ehrhart is misinformed about something.

CRAIG BARFIELD

Children do not have the emotional capacity, maturity, or life experience to be making such permanent decisions as regards to their physical gender status. Kids need parents to be adults, not just friends who want to satisfy their children's whims. If your child is born with a boys equipment, they are a male and need to be loved and encouraged but especially if they are not comfortable with who they are. Same goes for female kids who are not happy with their gender. Childhood is already filled with enough confusion & doubt. Well meaning parents do not need to complicate their children's lives further by allowing permanent, physical, & life altering changes to them before they become adults.

Gail Gilvin

Well said. I agree.

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