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Ohio’s Republican governor vetoes trans care restriction and sports ban

Gov. Mike DeWine is one of only a handful of Republican governors to veto restrictions on transition-related care for minors or bans on trans student-athlete participation.
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Ohio’s governor vetoed a bill Friday that would have restricted both transition-related care for minors and transgender girls’ participation on school sports teams.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto makes him one of only two Republican governors to veto a restriction on gender-affirming care, alongside then-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2021, and one of only three Republican governors to veto a trans athlete bill after Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb last year.

In a news conference on Friday after his veto, DeWine said the “gut-wrenching” decision about whether a minor should have access to gender-affirming care “should not be made by the government, should not be made by the state of Ohio,” rather it should be made by the child’s parents and doctors.

Before vetoing the bill, DeWine told The Associated Press that he had visited three children’s hospitals in the state to learn more about transition-related care and spoke to families who were both helped and harmed by it. 

“We’re dealing with children who are going through a challenging time, families that are going through a challenging time,” he said. “I want, the best I can, to get it right.”

The Ohio General Assembly, which is controlled by a Republican supermajority, can override the governor’s veto with a three-fifths majority vote.

DeWine’s veto follows weeks of fierce debate and lobbying over the bill. State Rep. Gary Click, a Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said this month that minors are “incapable of providing the informed consent necessary to make those very risky and life-changing decisions” regarding their health care, according to WCMH-TV, an NBC affiliate in Columbus. 

More than 290 people signed up to speak at an opposition hearing for the bill this month, including a number of physicians, according to WCMH-TV. 

One of them, Dr. Christopher Bolling, a retired pediatrician who spoke on behalf of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told NBC News that the bill targets a very small number of adolescents. Bolling practiced for more than three decades and saw thousands of families before retiring last year. Of those, he said he only worked with 20 to 30 who had persistent gender dysphoria. He referred most of them to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where he said they reported having positive experiences.

Proponents of restrictions on transition care for minors have cited European countries restricting access to such care. However, Bolling noted that none of those countries have banned it; rather, they are questioning it, which he said all doctors do with all types of care. He said there might be disagreement among doctors regarding how to best treat trans minors, but that disagreement isn’t unique to gender-affirming care.

“You get two pediatricians in a room, we can probably talk about the treatment of an ear infection for four hours, and differences of opinions on how to do it,” he said. “There are going to be differences of opinions on how to do any complicated care and this is complicated care. Having legislators come in to say, ‘This is settled and this needs to be treated this way,’ at this point, is ridiculous. They do it under the guise of saying, ‘Well, we just want to take time and find out if it’s really safe.’ Well, if you’re banning it, you’re never going to figure out if it’s safe either.”

More than a dozen major medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — support access to transition-related care for minors and have opposed the state bans. 

Last month, a number of people testified in favor of the bill, which also aimed to restrict trans student-athlete participation. Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who swam against transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, testified that Thomas was “not a one-off,” WCMH-TV reported.

“Across the country and across various sports, female athletes are losing not only titles and awards to males but also roster spots and opportunities to compete,” Gaines said. 

Gaines didn’t elaborate on other instances of trans athlete participation that she believed were unfair. However, in 2021, The Associated Press reached out to two dozen state lawmakers who supported restrictions on trans athletes and found that it has created a problem only a few times among the hundreds of thousands of American students playing sports. 

In the last three years, 22 states have passed restrictions on transition-related care for minors and 23 states have passed laws prohibiting trans athletes from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identities, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.