South Carolina governor signs gender-affirming healthcare ban into law News
Lucas Werkmeister, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
South Carolina governor signs gender-affirming healthcare ban into law

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Tuesday signed into law a gender-affirming healthcare ban for transgender minors.

House Bill (HB) 4624, known as the Help Not Harm bill, prohibits physicians, mental health providers and other healthcare professionals from “knowingly” providing gender-transition procedures to individuals under eighteen years of age. HB 4624 defines “gender transition procedures” as puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones or gender reassignment surgery “provided or performed for the purpose of assisting an individual with a physical gender transition.”

Healthcare professionals can continue to temporarily provide hormone treatments and puberty blockers to minors who are prescribed such treatment before August 1, 2024. The professional must determine and document that immediate termination of the treatment “would cause harm” to that individual, and the period for continued treatment must end by January 31, 2025.

The law further requires schools to notify the parents or guardians of minor students if the child has told a school employee that their gender is “inconsistent with” their sex or asks a school employee to address them by “a pronoun or title that does not align with the minor’s sex.”

House Representative Sylleste Davis stated in January that HB 4624 protects children by “ensuring they are not exposed to irreversible medical procedures at an age when they are most vulnerable.” McMaster offered a similar sentiment in January, stating the bill was “a good idea to keep our young people healthy and safe.”

Critics of HB 4624, however, emphasize the harm that the law will impose on transgender youth. Director of Communications for the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network Kelli Parker stated, “Rather than prioritizing the real issues facing South Carolinians, our lawmakers shamefully chose to promote hate, fear, and discrimination under the guise of ‘protecting kids.'” Parker added, “Laws that block essential healthcare violate human rights and are a major setback for equality.”

The ACLU of South Carolina announced its opposition to the bill earlier this year, stating that gender-affirming care “is a best practice backed by scientific evidence and endorsed by leading medical organizations.” The organization also noted that such care is “life-saving” and “is the only effective treatment for trans youth to prevent self-harm and suicidal ideation.”

Critics have further emphasized that doctors and patients testified before the legislative committees that gender-transition surgeries are currently unavailable to minors in South Carolina and that patients can only begin hormone treatments after “extensive consultation with health professionals” and the consent of parents or legal guardians.

South Carolina is now the 25th state to restrict or ban gender-affirming treatment for minors. Similar legislation has been introduced in states such as West Virginia, Ohio, and Louisiana in the past few years, representing a spike in legislation that targets the LGBTQ+ community. Last month, the US Supreme Court allowed a gender-affirming care ban for minors in Idaho to go into effect, while the governor of Kansas vetoed a state ban on such care.

The ACLU is currently tracking 515 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in the US. Other types of bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth include policies that restrict personal pronoun usage in schools, prohibit transgender athletes from participating on sports teams that do not correspond with their sex assigned at birth, and limit transgender students’ access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity.