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Under proposed NC House bill, only adults could get gender transition surgery

Rep. Hugh Blackwell, center, R-Burke, is one of the sponsors of a House bill seeking to ban gender transition surgery for people under age 18.
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N.C. General Assembly
Rep. Hugh Blackwell, center, R-Burke, is one of the sponsors of a House bill seeking to ban gender transition surgery for people under age 18.

North Carolina House Republicans want to ban gender transition surgeries for people under 18.

The House Health Committee approved a bill Tuesday to ban the procedure for transgender youth. Opponents of the measure — who argue it could limit medical care for a vulnerable population — packed the room but weren’t allowed to speak. The committee’s chair cut off all debate citing time constraints, and not even other legislators on the committee could ask the bill sponsors questions after their presentation.

As the committee adjourned, opponents chanted "let us speak," and one shouted "you're killing our kids."

Rep. Ken Fontenot, R-Wilson, is one of the bill's sponsors. He says he's worried that some kids and teens might want to transition back to their birth gender later in life.

"What we are calling for is relatively simple: to not resort to irreversible procedures that are dangerous before we absolutely, positively, without a doubt know that they will actually help," Fontenot said.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, research shows the surgery improves the mental health of transgender people who have it. Complications are rare, and the risk is similar to other surgical procedures.

An earlier version of the bill would have also banned puberty blockers and hormone treatments, but that was deleted from the measure approved Tuesday.

The current version would also ban state funds and state-run insurance programs from covering the cost of gender transition surgery for people under age 18.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee.


Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.