A man holds a sign in opposition to Senate Bill 140 inside the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 20, 2022. The legislation bans most medical treatments that help transgender kids affirm their gender identity. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Tuesday, the Georgia Senate passed a bill that would forbid children in the Peach State from taking gender-affirming medications, even if they have authorization from their parents. 

Senate Bill 140, presented by Senator Carden Summers, R-Cordele, passed by a 31-21 margin along party lines. The bill now heads to Governor Brian Kemp’s desk for a final signature.

This is a win for Republicans as they continue their push to protect the sanctity of life, while fortifying their political base. When Summers presented the bill in the House Public Health Committee, he said he was afraid of children agreeing to irreversible surgery or hormone replacement therapy in the belief those actions carry lifelong ramifications.

“But what we’re doing here is we’re preventing minors under 18 years old from having irreversible changes in their lives,” said State Senator Ben Watson, a Republican from Savannah. “These changes, whether surgical, which could be done and can be done here in the state of Georgia, or whether it’s almost replacement therapy, testosterone or estrogen. Those give irreversible changes to the monitors or the child’s body.”

Doctors and health care providers who don’t comply with the law could lose their licenses and potentially be exposed to criminal or civil liability.

During the 2022 Georgia Legislative Session, the Senate included language in House Bill 1084 which forbade the participation of transgender boys in girls sports. The bill passed by a 98-71 margin. Governor Kemp signed the bill into law on April 28, 2022.

A man fills out a contact form directed to Georgia State Senator Ben Cowsert, R-Athens, in opposition to Senate Bill 140 inside the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 20, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“Children suffering with gender confusion and dysphoria deserve compassionate care, not experimental surgeries and drugs that will lead children down a heartbreaking path of long-term physical and psychological harm,” said Janae Stracke, Vice President of Field Operations with Heritage Action, an organization that protects Conservative values. 

Democrats have criticized the Republicans for their hypocrisy as they pushed for parental rights regarding education, gun ownership, COVID-19 and masking, which books to read and not read while the State of Georgia was in the throes of the pandemic. However, many Democrats believe this bill will usurp the parental right while refusing to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. 

“This bill, in addition to usurping parental rights, also usurps doctor’s professional standards, requiring them to go against the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, and will face legal and reputational consequences,” said State Senator Elena Parent, a Democrat from Atlanta.

“And the problem with having a blunt instrument like that is you leave no room,” Parent continued. “There is no room left for those very small instances. Maybe it is only a few where it is 100% medically advisable and I dare say that almost every single person in this chamber when faced with the fact pattern that we know is out there would say ‘yes.’ In this instance, in this one in case, it is better to allow the doctors and the parents to work with this child and make this decision. But you’re saying no.”

Senate Bill 140 is part of a larger movement by the religious right’s strict position on social issues such as striking down abortion, directing state dollars to fund religious-based education, the fight to restrict transgender athletes, gender-affirming care and drag shows. For example, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah have each passed forms of legislation prohibiting healthcare for transgender people. 

A woman holds a sign in opposition to Senate Bill 140 inside the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 20, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

There are 410 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. 175 of those would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The Georgia Psychological Association recently came out in opposition to Senate Bill 140, saying, “Legislative mandates that place restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare interfere with a child’s and their parents’/guardians’ autonomy in making healthcare decisions; interfere with a healthcare provider’s ability to use practice standards and relevant research to guide their work; and are at odds with the relevant research, standards of care, and clinical expertise.”

“I urge Governor Kemp to veto this dangerous measure that disempowers parents and healthcare providers, endangers children, and damages the overall reputation of our State as a competitive, inclusive, and desirable place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari. “To every gender non-conforming and transgender person in Georgia, and to every person who loves a gender non-conforming or transgender person in Georgia, please do not give up hope. We see you, and we will not give up fighting for you.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...