The question of whether health care providers should be allowed to administer gender transition-related medical care to children — such as puberty blockers, mastectomies or hormone replacement therapy — became a flashpoint for debate in the Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday.
So much so that one DFL legislator, who appeared to defend such medical care being administered to minors, attempted to analogize it to infants and toddlers getting their ears pierced.
“How many of you know someone who has had a baby with their ears pierced?” Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, asked her colleagues on the House floor during discussion of a Republican-backed amendment to a highly publicized conversion therapy ban bill. HF16 eventually passed by a comfortable 81-47 margin, with support from all 70 DFL members and 11 Republicans.
Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn spoke against an amendment that would prohibit health care professionals from administering gender transition medical services to minors.
She said parents who seek these services are analogous to parents who get their infant's or toddler's ears pierced. pic.twitter.com/46cbtSYH6C
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) February 22, 2023
At the outset of the debate on the overall bill, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, offered the amendment that would have inserted language in HF16 prohibiting doctors and other licensed health care professionals from providing certain “gender transition medical services to a patient younger than 18 years of age or a vulnerable adult.” DFL members in the chamber effectively defeated Franson’s amendment as they outnumbered Republicans 70-59.
“That baby didn’t consent to [getting their ears pierced],” Becker-Finn continued. “That’s a permanent change. But we’ve all decided that’s okay. Our culture says that’s okay, because the parents decided that was okay. And within their household and within their family they thought that was okay.”
“The underlying (Franson) amendment would tell us we don’t get to make those decisions for our kids, that our constituents don’t get to make that decision for their kids. Kids do know who they inherently are even at young ages.”
Becker-Finn’s analogy was criticized by Rep. Peggy Scott, who cited an article quoting a world-renown gender reassignment surgeon who has publicly questioned the moral parameters and consequences of administering puberty blockers to children. That surgeon — Dr. Marci Bowers of Duke University, a transwoman — has performed hundreds of gender reassignment surgeries on transwomen who were born male and is highly regarded in that field.
“This doctor said that ‘no child under age 11 who was put on puberty blockers is now not sterile,’” Scott, R-Andover, said. “That’s someone who does this for a living.”
DFLers like Rep. Peter Fischer described that type of medicine as “lifesaving” for many children who identify as transgender.
“That is one of the hardest things when you see a great kid who has all this potential to do great things not to be able to receive the medical treatment they need and then die, it’s heart wrenching,” said Fischer, a social worker from St. Paul.
But Franson, who has a background in childcare, sees it very differently.
“I would say that what the Left calls gender-affirming care, which includes hormones that chemically castrate teens, or surgery that removes their sexual organs, I would say that is actively harmful to children,” Franson said.
Rep. Ann Neu Brindley, one of the 11 Republicans who voted for the overall bill banning the practice of conversion therapy and also supported Franson’s amendment, said that both measures say to professionals that “we should stop messing with kids.”
“Certainly, this underlying amendment does not prohibit a social transition and does not prohibit any particular gender identity,” Neu Brindley said. “It simply says we should limit gender medical transition when it comes to minors.”
Senate will take up conversion therapy bill
During debate over the conversion therapy bill, Republicans questioned whether its language is tailored narrowly enough to protect First Amendment speech of therapists who engage in talk therapy with their clients.
“Members, we could start over and write a bill that is tightly focused on regulating conduct, that fits within our constitution,” said Rep. Harry Niska, R-Ramsey. “But the bill we have before us is not that bill. The bill we have before us is unconstitutional. It regulates speech on the basis of viewpoint, on the basis of content. And that’s something that we as the government cannot do.”
The bill is expected to be picked up by the Senate, where the DFL caucus holds a one-seat margin.
Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order in 2021 prohibiting the use of state funds to pay for conversion therapy. DFL sponsors of the bill in prior sessions had been unable to get it passed in both the House and Senate.
To date, 20 states and more than 100 municipalities have enacted conversion therapy bans in some form or another.
The language of the overall bill reads the following:
“‘Conversion therapy’ means any practice by a mental health practitioner as defined in section 245I.02, subdivision 26, or mental health professional as defined in section 245I.02, subdivision 27, that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender. Conversion therapy does not include counseling that provides assistance to an individual undergoing gender transition, or counseling that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual or facilitates an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual-orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices, as long as the counseling does not seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.