Kansas Senate panel inserts punishment for gender-affirming care into unrelated House bill

Committee chairwoman says she believes combining the bills is constitutional

By: - March 22, 2023 1:15 pm

Sen. Beverly Gossage said she combined the two bills at the request of Sen. Mark Steffen. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Senate lawmakers have rolled legislation to punish physicians who prescribe gender-affirming medication and surgery for teenage Kansans into an unrelated bill and moved the whole package forward.

During a Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Beverly Gossage, R-Eudora, retrieved legislation previously adopted by the Senate and inserted it into House Bill 2263, which would allow pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations if given proper training. Gossage said the combination was requested by Sen. Mark Steffen, a Hutchinson Republican.

Sen. Pat Pettey, a Kansas City Democrat, questioned the addition of the unrelated material. Gossage, the committee chairwoman, said she had checked with the committee’s bill revisor and the move was constitutional.

“It’s a totally different chapter,” Pettey said. “You’re just saying health is mentioned in each bill.”

Initially included in Senate Bill 233, the legislation effectively bans gender-affirming medication and surgery for Kansans under the age of 18 by punishing physicians who prescribe the care. Beyond gender-transition surgery, the bill targets providing “testosterone to females,” “doses of estrogen to males,” and prescribing puberty-blocking medications to those under the required age.

The bill would allow for civil suits against doctors who provide gender-affirming care for those under 18. It also would revoke the licenses of physicians who offered such care.

The legislation is heavily criticized by transgender youths, activists and health care professionals who say that denying young transgender Kansans gender-affirming care could have damaging mental health effects.

The Senate passed SB233 by a 26-11 vote on Feb. 23.

A separate bill, Senate Bill 12, which was sponsored by Steffen, would directly ban gender-affirming health care for transgender people ages 21 and younger. Gossage’s committee held a hearing on that bill on Feb. 14 but has not taken action on it.

The House passed HB2263 by a 119 to 3 vote on Feb. 23.

If the Senate were to adopt the new bundle, the House could either approve the changes or force negotiations on a compromise bill, where parts could be removed or modified, and any related policies could be added.

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.