Legislation advanced this week that, if enacted, would reauthorize a program that provides essential health care for youth from low- and moderate-income families, as well as for pregnant women. The catch? It comes at the expense of trans youth.
Republican State Sen. Donald White introduced an amendment to the CHIP reauthorization bill to exclude payment for services to transgender-related care for youth in Pennsylvania. That includes not just surgery, but hormones, hospital care and counseling; the bill was later changed again to only prohibit surgery. However, the original message was heard loud and clear: White doesn’t think trans kids deserve access to what could be critical resources.
Transgender youth are at higher risk for suicide, depression and a sea of health disparities. Programs that enable them to explore their gender identity with professional counseling and other resources can literally save lives; and, by extension, such health care can connect caregivers with needed education and awareness-raising efforts that can go a long way toward helping support youth as they grow.
White evidently doesn’t think such care is needed — because he doesn’t value transgender lives.
And he’s not alone. All 10 Republicans on the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week voted to move the anti-trans amendment forward.
CHIP is a key health-care tool for lower-income Pennsylvania families. At the federal level, officials have let the reauthorization lapse, meaning funding for states will eventually dry up if no action is taken. That makes the state-level reauthorization even more essential — and the fact that Republicans want to play games with kids’ lives even more despicable.
All of Pennsylvania’s youth deserve quality health care; transgender and gender-nonconforming kids should not be exceptions or exclusions.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will veto the CHIP bill if it includes the full anti-trans language. Regardless of its movement, the willingness of lawmakers to sacrifice the health and safety of transgender children should send up a bright red flag for LGBT and youth advocates — and voters.
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