Oklahoma Seeks to Criminalize Gender-Affirming Care Up to Age 21

Jim Olsen
Jim Olsen

An Oklahoma legislator has filed a bill that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming health care for anyone under age 21.

Republican Rep. Jim Olsen’s House Bill 1101 “would prohibit health care professionals from providing, attempting to provide or making referrals for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender-reassignment surgeries,” the Tulsa World reports. Violations would come with a felony charge, and conviction would result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

Public funds, including those from the state Medicaid program, could not be used to pay for gender transition procedures for people under 21.

“It’s irresponsible for anybody in health care to provide or recommend life-altering surgeries that may later be regretted,” Olsen told the World. “We know there are some people who undergo the gender transition process and later identify as their biological sex. Performing irreversible procedures on young people can do irreparable harm to them mentally and physically later in life.”

Actually, studies have indicated that regret about transition is rare. The effects of puberty blockers and hormones are largely reversible, and gender-confirmation surgery is almost never performed on anyone under 18.

Usually, legislation to ban these procedures for young people has set an age of 18 or 19 as the limit. Alabama and Arkansas have passed laws to this effect, with Alabama’s providing for criminal penalties and Arkansas’s for professional discipline. Both of those are temporarily blocked from enforcement while lawsuits against them proceed.

Oklahoma has already enacted a law banning the use of federal funds the state received through the American Rescue Plan Act at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and its Children’s Hospital unless they cease providing gender-affirming care — which they did.

Bills seeking to ban gender-affirming care for minors have been filed in Oklahoma previously but have not passed. The state has adopted laws barring transgender girls from competing in girls’ school sports and requiring all students in public schools to use the restrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth.

Democratic legislators and LGBTQ+ activists have spoken out against Olsen’s bill. House Minority Leader Cindi Munson, a Democrat, told the World it is “irresponsible and dangerous” to provide care. “Studies have shown that denying gender-affirming health care leads to higher suicide rates among teens and young adults,” she added.

“Proposals such as HB 1011 prohibiting health care professionals from providing transition care to persons under 21 are not predicated on established health understandings,” Oklahomans for Equality Interim Executive Director Dorothy Ballard told the paper. “It is therefore our opinion that such laws are not only prejudiced but are of a grave disservice to Oklahoma youth, their caregivers, and our medical professionals.”