Kentucky Governor Says Puberty Blockers and Hormone Therapy for Kids Are 'Basic Medical Decisions'

Andy Beshear vetoed bill that outlawed gender transition treatments for minors

June 27, 2023

Puberty blockers and hormone therapy treatments for children—both of which, many medical experts say, can cause long-term bone and fertility issues—are "basic medical decisions," according to Kentucky Democratic governor Andy Beshear.

Beshear during a June 22 press conference attacked a GOP bill that bans the use of puberty blockers and hormones for anyone under the age of 18. While the American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged that those treatments can "be stressful and can lead to lower self-esteem and increased risk tasking" and may pose "long-term risks" to "bone metabolism and fertility," Beshear nonetheless defended his decision to veto the bill. "What they took away are basic medical decisions for parents to be able to make," Beshear said of Republicans who passed the legislation.

Beshear's veto did not stick—a Republican supermajority in the state legislature overrode the Democrat's attempt to block Senate Bill 150. Still, Beshear's decision to veto the measure puts the governor at odds with his Republican challenger, Kentucky attorney general Daniel Cameron, who in March said he would have signed the bill. Puberty blockers and hormone treatments, Cameron argued, put a child's "health and well-being" in danger.

"Even many liberal European countries are putting the brakes on these surgeries and gender therapies for minors. Meanwhile in America, Democrats call it extreme to oppose chemical castration and gender mutilation of minors," Cameron said at the time. "That is not care—it's irreversible and is the exact opposite of how we should support children experiencing gender dysphoria or mental health struggles."

Beshear did not return a request for comment. The Democrat during the press conference also accused Republicans of focusing on "some of the most extreme areas that don't happen." As Senate Bill 150 advanced through the state legislature, however, some Kentucky doctors revealed that they treat hundreds of patients under the age of 18 with puberty blockers and hormone therapy. Some pediatricians in Canada and the United Kingdom believe those treatments may artificially solidify feelings of gender dysphoria by halting the natural hormonal changes that occur during the teenage years.

Senate Bill 150 aligns Kentucky with other red states around the nation that are banning gender-transition treatments for children. Indiana, Florida, and Arkansas, for example, have all passed similar policies, though the laws have faced legal challenges. Kentucky is no different—the ACLU last month sued the state to block what it called a "ban on essential health care for trans youth."

Some blue states have taken the opposite approach, with California and Colorado signing laws that offer protection to minors who cross state lines to undergo gender transition surgeries. Those laws are also expected to face legal challenges, experts told the Washington Free Beacon in April. Beyond California's so-called safe haven law, Democrats in the state's legislature have also advanced a bill that would require any judge who hears a custody dispute over a trans-identifying child to side with the parent who "affirms" that child's preferred gender.

Blue-state Democrats have also argued that parents should not be informed when their child expresses a change in his or her gender identity while in school. New Jersey's liberal attorney general, Matt Platkin, recently sued four school districts for passing parental rights policies that require teachers to notify parents if their child decides to go by a different name or use a different bathroom or locker room. Those policies, Platkin argued, cause harm to a child's mental and physical health.

The son of Kentucky's 61st governor, Beshear rose to the governor's mansion in 2019 after he defeated Republican incumbent Matt Bevin—then the most unpopular governor in the country—by less than one percentage point. Cameron is expected to be a more formidable challenger as Beshear eyes reelection this November—both candidates are tied at 47 percent support, according to a Cygnal poll conducted in May.