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South Carolina governor signs ban on gender-affirming medical care for minors

<i>Sam Wolfe/Reuters/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks in Conway
Sam Wolfe/Reuters/File via CNN Newsource
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks in Conway

By Jack Forrest, CNN

(CNN) — South Carolina’s Republican governor on Tuesday signed a law banning gender-affirming medical care for minors in the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced the signing of H 4624 in a statement on social media, saying the measure “protects our state’s children from irreversible gender transition procedures and bans public funds from being used for them.”

With the law, South Carolina joins more than 20 other states in restricting gender-affirming care for transgender minors. The measure passed earlier this month by 28-8 in the state Senate and 67-26 in the state House.

The legislation, which takes effect immediately, bars physicians from providing gender-affirming medical care to minors, including hormone treatments, puberty blockers and surgeries – though surgical procedures are rarely performed on children.

Major medical associations agree that such care is appropriate for gender dysphoria, the psychological distress that may result when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not align.

Under the new law’s provisions, physicians can temporarily continue providing hormone treatments and puberty blockers to minors who were prescribed those treatments prior to August 1, 2024, if the health care professional determines and documents that immediately discontinuing the treatment would case the minor harm. The provider “may institute a period during which the person’s use of the drug or hormone is systematically reduced,” which must end by January 31, 2025.

South Carolina health care professionals who provide such care to minors outside those limits would be “subject to discipline” by their licensing entity and open to civil lawsuits. A physician performing surgery could face state charges of inflicting great bodily injury upon a child and could be imprisoned up to 20 years if convicted.

The law also requires school officials to notify the parents or guardians of a minor if their child has told school employees their gender doesn’t align with their sex assigned at birth or if they ask to use different pronouns.

“We can put to rest the notion that the governor cares about limited government and personal freedom,” Jace Woodrum, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, said in a statement Tuesday.

“With the stroke of a pen, he has chosen to insert the will of politicians into healthcare decisions, trample on the liberties of trans South Carolinians, and deny the rights of the parents of trans minors,” Woodrum added.

The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling the law “a major violation of South Carolinians’ freedoms.”

The measure “threatens to plunge the transgender community into a deeper health care crisis, leaving Virginia as the only Southern state without a ban, worsening nightmarish travel times and stripping transgender youth throughout the South of access to care,” Brandon Wolf, the group’s national press secretary, said in the statement.

South Carolina becomes just the latest state to restrict the care for trans minors, with around half of all states placing similar laws on their books in recent years.

As the laws spread across the country, so too do legal challenges to the health care restrictions. The challenges have resulted in conflicting rulings from federal judges and circuit courts, placing increased pressure on the US Supreme Court to weigh in on the hot-button issue.

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