Doctor questions opposition’s grasp of gender-affirming care for trans youth

Nebraska bill LB574 among several pieces of legislation moving through statehouses this year
A Nebraska doctor spoke with 6 News on gender-affirming care.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 12:00 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As other states move forward with bans on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, Nebraska lawmakers are still considering a ban here. But local doctors specializing in such care say it’s a bad idea — and prejudicial.

On Wednesday, Kentucky lawmakers voted to override their governor’s veto and pass a law that bans gender-affirming care for youth in that state. In West Virginia, Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Wednesday banning such care for minors with one unique exception: It permits doctors to prescribe medical therapy if a teenager is considered at risk for self-harm or suicide.

Many medical experts say such laws are harmful both physically and emotionally to transgender youth.

There have been protests , lawsuits, and walkouts across the country connected to lawmakers in several states, including Nebraska, who are working on laws they believe will help protect transgender youth from transitioning.

“Because deep down in the science and the anatomy and the biology and the chemistry, a female will always be a female and a male will always be a male,” said State Sen. R. Brad von Gillern of Elkhorn.

Dr. Elizabeth Constance said she thinks those pushing for the ban don’t understand what these youth are going through — and may not want to.

“Honestly, I think they come from a place of not wanting or trying to understand an experience that’s different from one’s own ... and that’s frustrating,” she said.

Dr. Constance has conducted research on fertility preservation and transgender hormone therapy. She also treats some patients with gender-affirming hormone therapy.

She said she believes lawmakers are way out of their lane on this issue.

“Twenty-nine medically specialty organizations have best practice guidelines supporting the use of gender-affirming care in the appropriate population. And so when legislators step in and try to say they can better anyalze that data than the specialist in those fields — the people who have trained decades to read and analyze and interpret that literature — is honestly disingenuous,” she said.

Nebraska’s LB574 is similar to legislation in other states. It would prohibit gender-affirming procedures for anyone younger than age 19 and allow doctors who provide such care to be sued.

Dr. Constance said the bill amends existing law that outlines physicians’ responsibilities — laws that say doctors can’t operate under the influence of drugs or alcohol or assault their patients.

“By amending kind of that existing statute, they’re making this a medical professional issue and saying that it’s against professional ethics and code of conduct to provide this care,” she said.

Both sides of this issue believe they are doing what is best for Nebraska’s children.

“Not everything that a child wants for themselves is good for them. We don’t let a kid eat candy every meal because we know it’s harmful. We don’t let them choose whether to attend school or not. We don’t let them jump off the roof because they think they’re a superhero,” von Gillern has said.

But even if Nebraska’s bill passes, there’s a possibility it could get tied up in court.

Dr. Constance believes it all adds up to a law that’s not constitutional, and legislation that restricts gender-affirming care to minors has been challenged in the courts in other states.

“Because it’s basically sex discrimination, saying you can give testosterone to somebody assigned male at birth who wants it but you can’t give testosterone to somebody assigned female at birth who wants it,” she said.

Nebraska lawmakers advanced the “Let Them Grow Act,” through the first round by a vote of 30-17 last week. Some lawmakers predict that tally won’t change in future rounds.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.