Dems Push to Make Oregon a Safe Haven for Child Sex Changes

Dem-backed bill would also allow girls of any age to get abortion without parental consent

An LGBT protester after Florida passed the so-called Don't Say Gay bill (Getty Images)
March 23, 2023

Oregon Democrats are pushing a sweeping bill that would make their state a safe haven for teens who want to get sex changes and abortions without parental consent and for doctors who illegally perform such procedures in other states.

The Reproductive Health and Access to Care Act would allow children as young as 15 to undergo sex change operations without parents’ knowledge, while also eliminating parental consent for abortions for girls of any age and reproductive sterilization for girls as young as 15. The bill would also classify facial reconstruction surgery and hair removal as "medically necessary" services, a move that would require insurers to cover the procedures.

Oregon is the latest blue state to propose making sex changes and abortions a default right for minors. In Oregon’s case, legislators have chosen to wrap a laundry list of transgender and abortion policies into one behemoth bill that will almost certainly pass, as it’s a priority for Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek and Oregon house speaker Dan Rayfield (D.).

The brainchild of Rayfield, the legislation was born out of a working group tasked with crafting the state’s response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. While the state already boasts some of the nation’s most permissive abortion laws, the bill would also make Oregon a leader in radical transgender medicine.

On the abortion front, the bill would ax the age of medical consent—which is 15 in Oregon—so that girls of any age can get a free procedure without their parents’ knowledge as well as unfettered, free access to abortion pills. Girls as young as 15 could also sign off on their own sexual sterilization. The bill would direct the state to send mobile abortion clinics into rural areas and require insurers to give liability coverage to all abortion doctors, even those who practice in states where the procedure is illegal.

On transgender policy, the proposal would enshrine Medicaid and private insurance coverage for all sex-change procedures—even genital constructions to give people both penises and vaginas to support their "nonbinary" identities. Health plans would also have to cover hair removal, voice coaching, and facial reconstruction surgery. Minors as young as 15 could obtain any of these "gender-affirming" surgeries and treatments without telling their parents. The legislation would also extend liability coverage to doctors in states that are banning gender alterations for minors.

The bill passed its first legislative committee vetting on Monday after four-and-a-half hours of testimony. Detransitioners, women who regretted their abortions, and advocates faced off against witnesses from Planned Parenthood, doctors and therapists from Oregon’s state-funded gender clinics, and activists.

Holly Hart, a retired attorney from Portland, reported that a growing number of young women are asking her for referrals to malpractice attorneys after being prescribed testosterone from just one or two "brief appointments" at Planned Parenthood. Some of these women can no longer have children, including those who have had to get hysterectomies because the cross-sex hormones atrophied their uterus, said Hart.

A detransitioner witness, "Frank" Smith, told lawmakers he agreed to genital surgery and breast implants while addicted to meth and has had to navigate his way to detransitioning on his own since the therapists he went to for help told him his remaining male characteristics caused his post-transition unhappiness. When he decided to remove the breast implants, Medicaid would not pay for the procedure so he had to save up on his own.

"I could not afford complete anesthesia and they operated on me while I was awake with only a little numbing cream," Smith said, adding that he learned too late he could not reconstruct his former body. "My muscles had been ripped off the bone in haste to fabricate female anatomy on a male chest. There is no reattaching them."

To support the legislation, transgender activist Seth Johnstone argued that Oregon should pass the bill to prevent transgender people from killing themselves. He told lawmakers that cosmetic procedures like hair removal should be covered by insurance because having hair can create "more dissonance" in a trans person, "and that’s why we see these suicide rates go up."

The legislative committee’s ultimate approval of the bill comes as progressive countries in Europe pull back support for transgender-boosting policies. Sweden, the first country to legalize sex changes, last month moved to halt cross-sex hormones for minors in all but rare cases.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve cross-sex hormones. Instead, the agency in 2016 warned these drugs can cause an increase in suicidal thoughts, Reuters has reported, although transgender activists often argue that without medical intervention gender-questioning youth are more likely to kill themselves. Meanwhile a growing number of detransitioners report devastating physical effects of surgery they have come to regret.