by Tess Joseph
On October 19, 2021, Ohio Republicans introduced H.B. 454, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (or “SAFE”) Act. Molly Sprayregen notes that the bill that would punish medical professionals for providing gender-affirming care—including hormone treatments and puberty blockers, even with parental consent—to minors. Further, it would charge any doctor who provides such care with “unprofessional conduct” and would make “actual or threatened violations” of the bill grounds for a lawsuit.
The doctors are not the only care providers threatened by H.B. 454. Nick Evans writes that the bill also targets school workers including teachers, nurses and counselors. Per the bill, these professionals are prohibited from “withholding” information about a student who is questioning their gender identity from that student’s parent or guardian. In essence, it requires them to out their trans students. This is a stark departure from the usual ethical standard: maintain confidentiality unless a student is harming themselves or others.
While the SAFE Act, as evidenced by its title, purports to keep minors safer, it will have the opposite effect. Many studies have shown that gender-affirming care reduces suicidal ideation and attempts in youth. The care that the SAFE Act seeks to make inaccessible is the very care that many youth need to be safe and healthy. Similarly, the departure from the usual ethical standard for confidentiality may very well cause a student harm.
We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation are vehemently against H.B. 454. Any effort to make critical healthcare services, including gender-affirming care, inaccessible is diametrically opposed to the fight for sexual freedom. Youth deserve quality care that is compassionate and responsive to their needs. They deserve to be able to confide in school workers without fear that they will be outed to their parents or guardians. H.B. 454 is an unconscionable attack on our fundamental human rights to autonomy, health, and safety.
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