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Indiana Capital Chronicle

April 5, 2023

Gov. Eric Holcomb (above) on Wednesday opted to sign a controversial ban on gender-affirming health care for minors into law over the protests of families, medical professionals and transgender children.

Holcomb, in a statement, seemed to agree with the bill’s legislative supporters who said such medical interventions should only occur in adulthood – though several other states have now introduced bans on adult gender-affirming health care after passing similar laws barring the treatment for minors.

“Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor. There has and will continue to be debate within the medical community about the best ways to provide physical and mental health care for adolescents who are struggling with their own gender identity, and it is important that we recognize and understand those struggles are real. With all of that in mind, I have decided to sign SB 480 into law,” he said in a prepared statement.

Just the day before, Holcomb said the bill was “clear as mud,” declining to share how he’d act on the measure but saying he’d consulted with lawmakers, physicians and legal counsel to inform his decision.

On Saturday, hundreds gathered at the Indiana Statehouse to personally appeal to the governor and ask him to veto Senate Bill 480, which blocks puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgical interventions.

Repeated testimony affirmed that no doctors perform such surgeries on children in Indiana.

Last year, Holcomb vetoed a measure that would have barred transgender female athletes from competing with their peers, saying the Indiana High School Athletic Association already had a policy for transgender athletes. Within weeks, the General Assembly returned for a technical corrections day and voted to overturn his veto with a simple majority.

Had Holcomb decided to veto this bill, it’s likely that lawmakers would ultimately overturn his veto again.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana vowed to challenge the ban in court, just as it had challenged the transgender athlete ban. The organization added that similar laws in Alabama and Arkansas are currently blocked by federal courts.

“This is a devastating development for transgender youth in Indiana and heartbreaking for all of us who love and support them. Indiana politicians continue to fail trans youth, so it is up to each and every one of us to rise against their ignorance and surround these young people with strength, safety, and love,” said Jane Henegar, the ACLU of Indiana’s executive director. “In addition to targeting an already vulnerable group, this law blatantly disregards the rights of parents and families to make decisions about their children’s health. The ACLU is dedicated to overturning this unconstitutional law and is confident the state will find itself completely incapable of defending it in court.”

The ACLU network is also in the midst of legal challenges against new or proposed gender-affirming health care bans in: Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Utah and Montana. A federal judge overseeing a challenge to the Arkansas ban, the first passed in the nation, will rule on the issue soon.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: info@indianacapitalchronicle.com.

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