A Florida bill that critics call the most extreme anti-transgender legislation pending anywhere in the country cleared a Republican-controlled state House subcommittee on Wednesday.
The measure, which advanced on a 12-5 vote, would block health insurance providers — including private ones — from covering gender-affirming care for adults, bar minors from receiving any gender-affirming care, and forbid transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates.
Minors currently receiving such care would have until Dec. 31, 2023, to end it.
Addressing the hearing room, ranking Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman said “we all know” the bill would pass there and in the full state House, which operates with an 85-35 Republican majority. She urged her colleagues to approve an amendment to the bill introduced by a fellow Democrat, state Rep. Kelly Skidmore, that would lessen its harmful impact by eliminating the section requiring minors to detransition.
“Please grandfather these people in, please,” Bartleman said.
Will Larkins, an 18-year-old senior at Winter Park High School outside Orlando, also argued passionately for the amendment, citing conversations he has had with transgender classmates.
“That health care has saved their lives. You will kill them. I am telling you right now — look me in the eyes — you will kill them if you pass this bill and you don’t pass this amendment,” Larkins said.
“You will kill them if you force them to detransition,” he added.
But the committee rejected the amendment.
The bill is expected to be heard by another state House committee in the coming weeks as it continues its journey to becoming law.
Members of the health care regulation subcommittee were given the opportunity to question the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Randy Fine (R), who promised last year that he would introduce anti-transgender legislation.
Bartleman focused one question on the aspects of the bill that would impact transgender adults, asking why the state of Florida was seeking to “interfere with adults’ freedom to make these sort of informed decisions for themselves.”
Fine replied, “The state is not interfering.”
“But it is, because you’re limiting their access to health care,” Bartleman said.
Fine replied that insurance should not cover gender-affirming care because he believes it to be “a cosmetic-type procedure, and not necessarily a procedure that would improve their health.”
Under the bill, transgender adults would be required to pay for all gender-affirming care out-of-pocket, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. Gender-affirming care is supported by a host of major medical groups including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Studies show that when people with gender dysphoria are able to access gender-affirming health care, their mental health is greatly improved. Suicide rates are known to be higher among the transgender population.
At various points, Fine referred to these treatments as “experimental,” a “mutilation” and claimed they had “catastrophic side effects,” all of which are heavily disputed anti-transgender talking points. He labeled gender-affirming treatments “child abuse,” later clarifying that was his personal opinion.
Fine also stated that the term “gender-affirming care” was “erroneous,” although he did not explain why.