Fact check: Are there really more than 400 ‘anti-trans’ bills?

Transgender Military
FILE – In this March 27, 2018 file photo, plaintiffs Cathrine Schmid, second left, and Conner Callahan, second right, listen with supporters during a news conference in front of a federal courthouse following a hearing in Seattle. Transgender-rights activists are angered at moves by President Donald Trump and his administration to undermine gains achieved before his election. Trump is seeking to ban transgender people from military service, although that effort has stalled in court. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Fact check: Are there really more than 400 ‘anti-trans’ bills?

As the battle over transgender-related legislation heats up in statehouses across the country, some Democrats and activists have warned that transgender people are under attack from an avalanche of dangerous proposals.

The huge number of bills is often cited in conversations about the urgency of advancing transgender rights.

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Some of the bills lumped into the statistics take a harsher approach than others. For example, several states have moved to criminalize any effort by healthcare professionals to provide gender transition surgery to a minor under any circumstances.

The latest flashpoint in the battle over transgender rights came in North Dakota this week when the state legislature failed to override the Republican governor’s veto of a transgender-related bill. That bill would have stopped schools and state agencies from requiring the use of preferred pronouns, which transgender advocates argued would have allowed public officials to misgender people.

Activists had claimed the North Dakota pronouns bill was one of hundreds of “anti-trans” bills working their way through the legislatures of virtually every state as they seek to paint the country as overwhelmingly hostile toward transgender people.

The Trans Legislation Tracker says 492 bills in 47 states have targeted transgender people this year, for example.

The American Civil Liberties Union cites 451 current “anti-LGBTQ” bills.

And the Human Rights Campaign said recently that it is monitoring more than 470 “anti-LGBTQ+” bills from this year.

But some of the bills cited by these organizations do little to target transgender people, directly or indirectly, raising questions about the accuracy of the figures frequently relied upon in political debates to justify heated rhetoric.

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For example, one piece of federal legislation cited as an offensive bill by the Trans Legislation Tracker would just prevent companies from claiming a business deduction to reimburse employees who pay for the “costs of child gender transition procedure.” It would essentially close a tax loophole.

Another bill in Congress cited as an anti-trans bill would not prevent any kind of gender-related treatment for minors who wish to transition. Instead, it would reserve the right for any person who, as a minor, received medical treatments related to their gender identity to file a medical malpractice lawsuit once they reach adulthood.

Trans organizations include on their lists some bills that could conceivably be considered helpful to their side.

For example, the Trans Legislation Tracker cites a bill introduced by an Oregon Republican lawmaker that would allow transgender girls to participate in sports and would simply remove the sex-specific designations for sports programs that would like to include transgender athletes.

A Minnesota bill would not prohibit a school from withholding information from parents in circumstances that a school official deems necessary to protect the child but would establish an expectation that the school notify parents “if a significant change in the student’s health care services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”

And still more state-level bills do not appear intended to target transgender people at all or at least do not rise to the level of attempts “to block trans people from receiving basic healthcare, education, legal recognition, and the right to publicly exist,” as the Trans Legislation Tracker claims all 492 bills on its list do.

In Vermont, for example, one bill on the list of anti-trans legislation would protect doctors from retaliation if they decline to provide a medical procedure that would violate their beliefs.

The text of the bill mentions “abortion, artificial birth control, sterilization, artificial insemination, assisted reproduction, human embryonic stem-cell research, fetal experimentation, human cloning, physician-assisted suicide, and euthanasia” as examples of the types of procedures that medical professionals could opt out of it due to their beliefs if the bill passed.

Gender-related treatment is not even mentioned anywhere in the bill.

Another bill introduced in the Washington state legislature would create a narrow prohibition on transgender inmates’ ability to serve sentences in facilities housing people of their chosen sex. The bill would limit transgender inmates from incarceration in prisons that correspond with their gender identity only if they have been convicted of a sex crime against a victim whose biological sex matches the sex of the prison population.

In other words, for example, a transgender woman who was born male would be prevented from serving time in a women’s prison only if she had been convicted of sexually assaulting a biological woman under the bill.

In Illinois, one bill characterized as an attack on transgender people would only stop the state’s child services department from forcibly removing a child from the custody of his or her parents in the event a parent chooses not to use their child’s preferred pronouns or withholds consent for gender-related treatment or counseling — the latter of which older students can generally receive from their schools without their parents knowing.

Many of the bills characterized as anti-transgender focus on the right of parents to receive notice from their child’s school if a child is receiving counseling for a gender identity issue or has begun to transition socially, which can involve changing his or her pronouns or beginning to respond to a different name.

Different from bans on gender transition surgery, parental notification laws would simply stop schools from concealing information from parents — many of whom may well go on to support the specific treatment their child is requesting.

A Massachusetts bill characterized as anti-trans, for example, would stop schools from “prohibiting a parent from accessing certain records” and ban schools from adopting policies “that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information,” among other things.

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Many of the bills characterized as anti-trans by organizations that track such issues do indeed seek to place limits on the ability of people to access gender-related treatment.

But the credibility of the claim that more than 400 anti-trans bills are marching through legislatures strains credulity when many address other concerns — like parental rights, athletic fairness, and even routine funding questions.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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