Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed the state’s proposed ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, telling reporters Friday that such a ban would do more harm than good.
DeWine is only the second Republican governor to veto such a measure. The first was former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who vetoed the nation’s first gender-affirming health care ban in 2021.
House Bill 68 also sought to bar transgender women and girls from competing on female school sports teams.
DeWine on Friday said he had spent the last two weeks since House Bill 68 was delivered to him traveling the state on a “fact-finding mission” that included talks with medical professionals and families with transgender children.
He also spoke to opponents of treatments including puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgery, he said.
“These are truly complex issues, and reasonable people draw vastly different conclusions,” DeWine said during a press conference on Friday. “This bill would impact a very small number of Ohio’s children, but for those children who face gender dysphoria, and for their families, the consequences of this could not be more profound.”
“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” DeWine said. “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.”
“I’ve also been told by those who are now grown adults that, but for this care, they would have taken their lives when they were teenagers,” he said.
“I cannot sign this bill as is currently written,” DeWine said, “and just a few minutes ago, I vetoed the bill.”
Ohio Republicans, who overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill, hold supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and are likely to vote to override DeWine’s veto.
If an override attempt is successful, health care providers in Ohio will be barred from both administering gender-affirming care to minors and engaging in conduct that “aids or abets” in the administering of care. Mental health professionals will be unable to diagnose or treat a minor with a “gender-related condition” without consent from the minor’s parents.
DeWine on Friday dodged several questions from media about whether he supported the bill’s restrictions on transgender athletes, although the governor has said previously that he believes the issue “is best addressed outside of government.”
“I focused on the part of the bill that I thought affected the most people and the most children by far,” DeWine said Friday, referring to the bill’s health care restrictions, “and did not even get to the other question.”
DeWine on Friday also pushed back against claims that gender-affirming surgeries are being performed on transgender minors in Ohio. Republican state lawmakers this session had argued that House Bill 68 was needed to protect children from undergoing “invasive surgical procedures” to affirm their gender identity.
“That’s, frankly, a fallacy that’s out there,” DeWine said, citing conversations with Ohio families and health care providers.
Gender-affirming care for transgender adults and minors is considered safe, effective and medically necessary by every major medical organization, although not every trans person chooses to medically transition or has access to care.
Medications including puberty blockers and hormones are not recommended for children that have not begun puberty, according to guidelines set by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health and the Endocrine Society, and most surgeries are reserved for trans adults over 18.
DeWine on Friday also unveiled a plan to address certain goals set in House Bill 68 through administrative rules that he said would stand a better chance of surviving judicial review and being adopted.
One of the rules would prohibit health care providers from performing gender-affirming surgeries on minors, he said, and another would establish additional protections for transgender youths seeking care and their families.
“I truly believe that we can collaborate, find common ground and adopt rules to protect our children, adults and families,” he said.
Updated at 12:05 p.m.
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