Senate Bill 14, which prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender minors in the state, will go into effect Friday despite efforts from LGBTQ+ organizations to stop the law. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill in June and it is part of multiple bills that impact the LGBTQ+ community.
The legislation would make Texas the largest state to ban treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
Supporters of the bill say children shouldn’t be allowed to make life-altering decisions. Opponents of the bill argue that it violates parents’ fundamental right to make health care decisions for their children and violates the rights of transgender youths.
Here is everything you need to know about the law and the impact it will have on the LGBTQ+ community:
What does Senate Bill 14 say
Senate Bill 14 will prohibit “procedures and treatments for gender transitioning, gender reassignment, or gender dysphoria” once it goes into effect. Health plans may also not provide coverage for any services “intended to transition a child’s biological sex as determined by the child’s sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous profiles,” according to the bill language.
Medical providers may not perform surgeries that sterilize the child or “provide, prescribe, administer, or dispense” prescription drugs “that induce transient or permanent infertility.”
This law isn’t new in the United States – more than 15 states across the country have laws banning gender-affirming care. Some of those state’s laws will go into effect in the coming months. Texas officials have criticized other states that allow such medical procedures.
“This is insane,” Abbott stated on social media about gender-affirming laws in California. “This will never happen in Texas. In Texas, we put parents first. Also, I signed a law protecting children from sexual mutilation.”
When will Senate Bill 14 take effect?
The bill was approved in a 19-to-12 vote in the Texas Senate and an 87-to-56 vote in the Texas House. It goes into effect Sept. 1, despite litigation filed by critics to overturn the law.
What opponents of Senate Bill 14 say
Opponents say Senate Bill 14 unfairly targets transgender youths by prohibiting treatments for children with gender dysphoria while allowing the same medical care, including puberty blockers and hormones, to be prescribed to any other minor for any other reason, said Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, during a press conference Aug. 16.
Since the bill was passed, Equality Texas, an organization focused on equality for all Texans, has been having conversations with families with transgender children and providing them with resources, said Brad Pritchett, field director for Equality Texas.
“This is life-saving health care for kids and this is impacting Texas kids every day in really terrible ways,” Pritchett said. “We’re denying them health care now. But even before this bill will go into effect in September. I mean, the state was terrorizing children and people just seem to be OK with that and that’s not OK. We should be protecting these kids.”
Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas and the Campaign for Southern Equality partnered to create a micro-grant program to help families needing to travel out of Texas to receive medical care for their transgender children or who relocate completely. The organizations are providing rapid response emergency grants of $500.
Families with transgender children face a challenge of deciding to stay in Texas or packing their bags and relocating to a state where gender-affirming care is still accessible. Equality Texas has helped families with transgender children navigate the process of relocating. Most of those families have been devastated by being forced to decide whether to leave the place they call home or provide health care for their children, Pritchett said.
“This is legislation that was designed to target a tiny group of children getting a very specific type of health care, then allowing every other child to still access that type of health care,” he said. “For Houston, it’s particularly terrible that we’re the home of the medical center and this bill is being put into effect, denying the expertise of health care professionals.”
What do supporters of SB 14 say?
Days prior to Abbott receiving the bill on his desk, he told Fox News that he would be signing it.
“This is about protecting children,” he said during the newscast. Abbott said minors under the age of 18 are not allowed to purchase cigarettes or tattoos, so they should not be allowed to make life-altering decisions.
State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, introduced the bill in the legislature on March 29.
“We must protect children from medically unnecessary, irreversible gender modification treatments,” she wrote in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Family Policy Alliance, a Christian ministry that says it defends faith and protects families, and Texas Values, an organization that says it’s focused on preserving and advancing a culture of family values in the state, both support Senate Bill 14.
“Today, Texas has sent a clear message: they take child safety seriously,” said Autumn Leva, Senior Vice President of Strategy at Family Policy Alliance, in a press release released June 3. “When a child is deeply struggling, he or she deserves meaningful help – not the harm of experimental hormones and surgery.”
What could stop SB 14 from being enacted?
After Abbott signed the law during the legislative session, the ACLU sued the state of Texas on behalf of five families, three medical professionals and two organizations.
The lawsuit (Loe v. Texas) says that Senate Bill 14 violates the Texas Constitution, violates parents’ fundamental right to make health care decisions for their children and violates the rights of transgender youths to not be discriminated against based on sex, Klosterboer said.
A Travis County judge granted the plaintiffs a temporary injunction on Aug. 25. In response, the Texas attorney general’s office filed an appeal to block the judge’s decision. The law will go into effect Sept. 1.
The attorney general’s office issued a press release Aug. 25 stating that it will enforce laws issued by the Legislature and protect children.
“These unproven medical interventions are emphatically pushed by some activists in the medical and psychiatric professions despite the lack of evidence demonstrating medical benefit, and even while growing evidence indicates harmful effects on children’s mental and physical welfare,” the office stated.
What happens if the law is violated
If medical providers violate the law, they are at risk of losing their medical license.
Where medical providers stand
Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into Texas Children’s Hospital in May prior to Abbott signing SB 14.
“I’ve been clear that any ‘gender transitioning’ procedures that hurt our children constitute child abuse under Texas law,” he said in a statement. “Recent reports indicate that Texas Children’s Hospital may be unlawfully performing such procedures, and my office it is working to uncover the truth.”
In response to the investigation, Texas Children’s Hospital stated that it would stop gender-affirming care for minors by Sept. 1 in response to the law.
“We will work with patients and their families to manage the discontinuation of hormone therapies or source appropriate care outside of Texas,” CEO Mark Wallace said in a letter to employees. “We will continue to offer psychosocial support and any form of care we can within the bounds of the law.”
Alex Sheldon, executive director for the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, said doctors will not remain in Texas and will head somewhere where they don’t have to harm any patient or risk their medical licenses.
Lynly Egyes, legal director for the Transgender Law Center, said doctors are already fleeing the state or not even coming to the state.
“We know from doctors that they’re scared,” Egyes said. “They’re tired.”