A bill introduced in the Michigan Legislature this week could mean life in prison for any parent or doctor who "consents to, obtains, or assists with a gender transition procedure for a child." The measure—H.B. 6454—amends the state's child abuse statute to define such actions as child abuse in the first degree.
Under current Michigan law, first-degree child abuse is defined as "knowingly or intentionally caus[ing] serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child." It's punishable under Michigan law by "imprisonment for life or any term of years."
H.B. 6454 would add to the definition "knowingly or intentionally consent[ing] to, obtain[ing], or assist[ing] with a gender transition procedure for a child," if the person acting is "a child's parent or guardian or any other person who cares for, has custody of, has authority over a child regardless of the length of time that a child is cared for, in the custody of, or subject to the authority of that person, or a physician or other licensed medical professional." Gender transition procedures are defined to include not just surgical interventions but also the prescription of puberty blockers and hormones.
Yes, under the proposed change, prescribing puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to a teenager would be equivalent to severely beating a child. And it would be defined as a more severe form of abuse than starving or abandoning a kid.
The proposed statute says that allowing gender transition treatment for a minor—no matter the child's age—is a more severe form of child abuse than a "willful failure to provide food, clothing, or shelter necessary for a child's welfare," or the "willful abandonment of a child." It would also be defined as a more severe offense than negligence or recklessness that "causes serious physical harm or serious mental harm to a child," someone "knowingly or intentionally commit[ing] an act likely to cause serious physical or mental harm to a child," or someone "knowingly or intentionally cause[ing] physical harm to a child" that is not severe. And it would be in the same category as intentionally causing "a physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child's health or physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut."
Even if you're leery of prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors, it's got to be clear that these things—and even more drastic surgical measures—are worlds apart from the kinds of pointless and savage abuse Michigan legislators would equate them to. Parents and doctors who consent to the former think they're helping, even if this wisdom may be debatable. And while some of these drugs and procedures can come with side effects—well, so do a lot of things. Yet we often still allow these things when a doctor deems them prudent or when the alternative might be worse.
It's one thing to say such treatments for minors should not be a first resort—that we should be cautious, and perhaps even require more medical checks and balances. But it's another entirely to define difficult treatment decisions made by doctors, parents, and kids together as equivalent to beating a child to the point of causing brain damage.
Alas, this absurdity seems to be gaining ground. Michigan is attempting to follow the lead of Texas, which earlier this year categorized the medical treatment of trans minors as child abuse. Enforcement of that policy is supposedly on hold as a lawsuit over it plays out, though recent court filings allege that investigations into trans kids are still taking place.