Gender-affirming care legislation passes Delaware House committee

By Joseph Edelen
Posted 4/1/24

DOVER — Building off recently-enacted law that extends legal protections for providers of reproductive care, Delaware lawmakers are working to do the same for those who perform gender-affirming …

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Gender-affirming care legislation passes Delaware House committee


DOVER — Building off recently enacted law that extends legal protections for providers of reproductive care, Delaware lawmakers are working to do the same for those who perform gender-affirming treatments.

House Bill 346, sponsored by Rep. DeShanna Neal, D-Elsmere, would mirror the same reproductive protections under state law, which only pertain to providers since gender-affirming care is legal under state law.

According to the proposal — which does not address parental consent laws related to such care in the state — treatment refers to intervention services to align appearance with gender identity and to alleviate stress caused by “gender incongruence,” as well as related developmental services.

Furthermore, House Bill 346’s protections extend to privacy during civil actions and immunity from such action brought forth by other states; ensuring no risk of losing professional licenses for providing the care; prohibiting insurance companies from increasing premiums or taking action against providers; and providing a cause of action for individuals sued in other states to allow them to recoup legal costs for receiving care in Delaware.

“I want to point out what this bill does not do. It does not change any laws about parental consent at all; decisions to provide care to you are made in consultation with doctors and parents, that has always been, and it always will be,” Rep. Neal said during the bill’s hearing in the House Health and Social Services Committee on March 27.

“In all cases, regardless of the age of the patient, gender-affirming surgeries are only performed after multiple discussions (with doctors), and usually 18 (years) and over because that is the age recommended by (World Professional Association for Transgender Health).”

The Elsmere Democrat also referred to statistics from Harvard’s School of Public Health, which found that such treatment attributes to a 42% reduction in psychological distress and 44% reduction in suicidal ideation.

Throughout the bill’s hearing, House Republicans questioned the treatment itself, specifically related to minors.

Since the bill only pertains to legal protections for providers and does not expand state statutes relating to gender-affirming care, committee chair and House Majority Whip Kerri Evelyn Harris, D-Dover, urged members – like Rep. Valerie Jones Giltner, R-Georgetown – to stay on the topic of the bill.

“You’re putting it underneath the cloak of reproductive health services,” the Republican committee member said. “I’m going to go further on this… How would I file (a complaint) against a doctor in Delaware when we’re protecting them? We’re doing nothing but protecting the practitioners and not protecting the minors.”

As lawmakers in opposition continued to question House attorneys and expert witnesses, Rep. Harris reiterated that the bill does not change any laws related to the actual care itself, rather legal protections for providers in the state.

“If you disagree with them being able to practice as it falls in line with Delaware law, then you’re welcome to present a bill that changes that,” she said.

Just prior to public comment, Rep. Charles Postles, R-Milford, offered his perspective, stating that the bill was wrong and relates to a “high-risk kind of care.”

“Often, young people — agreed by both sides — are not fully developed, and yet we’re making … long, life-changing changes that have consequences,” he said. “I think that particularly in relation to the younger ages, we need to be adults here in talking about what is good for the children, what is good for the those that are receiving this health care.”

Rep. Neal emphasized that individuals must go through a lengthy process while receiving gender-affirming care, as professionals consider family history and other factors that contribute to their feelings.

“When it comes to gender-affirming care already, they don’t just suddenly say your kid or this adult is (transgender), they immediately say, ‘Let’s talk more on this,’” Rep. Neal said.

“It doesn’t go straight into a doctor; it starts with mental health care, social workers, guidance counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists…. So they are, in fact, helping the patient navigate a journey that is often difficult.”
Following the debate, House lawmakers narrowly voted to release the bill from committee.

With House Bill 346 receiving committee passage, it now heads to the ready list for consideration on the House floor.

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