State Watch

Michigan bill seeks to define gender-affirming care for minors as first-degree child abuse

State Republican lawmakers in Michigan have introduced a bill that would amend the state’s penal code to classify gender-affirming health care for transgender youth as first-degree child abuse.

According to the bill filed Tuesday, a person would be found guilty of first-degree child abuse — punishable by life imprisonment — if they “knowingly or intentionally” cause serious physical or mental harm to a child, including by assisting a child obtain a “gender transition procedure.”

The bill was introduced by state Reps. Ryan Berman, Steve Carra, Luke Meerman, Beau LaFave and Steve Marino, who are all Republicans.

The measure defines a “person” in this case as the child’s parent or guardian or a licensed medical professional.

LaFave in a Wednesday phone call with The Hill said he believes providing gender-affirming prescription medications and surgical procedures to youth who are not legally able to consent to having sex is “logically incoherent.”

“People are abusing these children,” he said. “The idea that we would be making potentially life-altering changes to 11-, 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old kids when it is illegal for them to have sex is insane. I mean, they’re not responsible enough to smoke a cigarette until they’re 21.”

LaFave said he’s optimistic most Republicans in the state legislature will back the measure. He added that he believes most Michigan Democrats are in ideological agreement with him and the bill’s co-sponsors but would risk damaging their political careers if they supported the measure publicly.

Republicans hold a narrow three-seat majority in the Michigan state House.

If passed, Michigan would become the second state in the nation to make it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors. Alabama outlawed certain treatments including puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender youth under 18 in legislation signed by the governor in April, though a federal judge in May blocked the state from enforcing the law.

Two other states — Arkansas and Arizona — have passed laws that ban certain kinds of gender-affirming care for minors, but do not consider it a felony to provide such care.

The Arkansas ban has been blocked by a court order for more than a year, and Arizona’s law, which officially took effect last month, only bars youth from undergoing gender-affirming surgeries, most of which are not recommended for minors under guidelines set by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) and the Endocrine Society.

Officials in dozens of other states this year have explored avenues to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors. In Texas, where the legislature meets only during odd-numbered years, both the governor and attorney general have accused parents that allow their kids to receive gender-affirming health care of abusing their children.

A number of Texas bills introduced last year to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender youth failed to advance through the legislature.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in August introduced the first piece of federal legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors nationwide. Greene’s bill, co-sponsored by more than 40 House Republicans, would make it a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison to provide gender-affirming care to youth under 18.

Major accredited medical associations have said gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and adults is medically necessary and often lifesaving.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Children’s Hospital Association, the groups condemned recent attacks against children’s hospitals and called for a Department of Justice investigation into individuals and organizations spreading misinformation about gender-affirming care.

State Watch