KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bills moving through the Missouri and Kansas legislatures would criminalize some health care services and limit access to sports for transgender youth.
Advocates in the LGBTQ community said these bills only hurt transgender children, while the lawmakers behind them said it's a move to protect children.
Kansas House Bill 2210 and Missouri House Bill 33 would make it a crime for doctors to perform any gender-reassignment services, procedures or surgeries for transgender children under 18, which includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
Gender reassignment surgeries are widely restricted to people older than 18.
Missouri's bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Suzie Pollock, also includes parents who help or support their children in undergoing these medical treatments, requiring that they be reported to the state children's division.
"Our kids hear that," Shira Berkowitz with PROMO Missouri said, "and we're doing everything we can to make sure they're supported by their parents, by the adults in their lives, and know there is much larger support system for them than these bills set to attack them."
PROMO Missouri, an LGBTQ rights group, and the American Civil Liberties Union protested HB 33 in Jefferson City on Wednesday, but the hearing was canceled. A new date hasn't been set.
"For us, it's a clear victory that she and other officials understand that this is a really delicate issue that really doesn't need politician's voices in the mix," Bertowitz said.
Kansas' bill also needs to pass through committee hearings.
Rep. Brett Fairchild, a Republican representing District 113, introduced it and three of his colleagues are cosponsoring.
"I don’t believe that a child has developed the mental capacity or maturity to make a life altering decision like changing their sex," Fairchild told KSHB. "Children change their minds on things all the time. It’s been documented that many children who have begun transitioning to the opposite sex end up regretting their decision.
"I think we need to let kids be kids. I don’t think a 7-year-old kid should be thinking about what gender they are. I don’t think a child would ever think about something like that if their parents or others around them weren’t telling them that they can choose to be the opposite gender. I think this is something that’s just being forced on kids. So I introduced HB 2210 in order to protect the rights of children of our state."
Co-sponsor Rep. Cheryl Helmer (R-Kansas) said she is only opposed to children being surgically altered.
"If a child has a tendency or curiosity, or there is a 'fad' to be gay, the child [needs] a parent who is open to conversation with the school, [their] pediatric physician and then an experienced child therapist to work with the child before permanent decisions are made," Helmer said.
Bryan Carter, a pediatrician and bioethicist, said the bills bring up ethical issues and that medical decisions should be left to the doctor, the child and the parent.
"Those decisions really belong in the privacy realm of that relationship, that therapeutic relationship," Carter said. "They should not be encroached upon by the state that says you can't do one of any number of things."
Carter also said that all children aren't the same, much like every pregnancy isn't the same and old age isn't experienced the same way.
"In these situations, to just blanket dictate that you can't or can do one thing is to treat all such persons as a single entity," Carter said, "and we know each of us is an individual."
MO House Joint Resolution 53 also was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday, which would require a vote in the November 2022 election to change the state constitution to say high school athletes can only play the sport corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye, a Republican representing District 47. He said the bill is a way to protect the integrity of school sports.
"It's a very emotional-type subject and some people some of my colleagues don't agree with me on this and that's fine," Basye told KOMU.
For instance, if a trans girl wanted to play sports, she couldn't play for the girls team because she was born with male sex organs.
"Politicians are trying to create a problem that does not exist," Berkowitz said. "For a child to be able to be themselves at school and then have to change who they are after school for a sports activity is life threatening."
Kansas also has a similar bill limiting transgender athletes. Senate Bill 208 would require that only people who are biologically female could play on female sports teams. The Committee on Federal and State Affairs, made up of all Republicans except for the ranking minority member, is sponsoring the bill.
Berkowitz said PROMO said will continue to fight against these and any other similar bills.
"We know all children should be treated with dignity and respect and given every support system we have out there to thrive," Berkowitz said.
This story was originally published by Sarah Plake at KSHB.