Republican lawmakers introduce bill allowing adults to sue doctors who perform 'sex-change' surgeries

Sen. Tom Cotton
Sen. Tom Cotton | Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

Two Republican congressmen have introduced legislation that would allow adults who underwent body mutilating gender-transition surgeries as minors to sue the doctors who operated on them. The bill also includes a 30-year statute of limitations. 

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., introduced the Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act on Wednesday. The legislation subjects medical practitioners who perform “a gender-transition procedure on an individual who is less than 18 years of age” to liability if the minor who had the cosmetic surgery or multiple surgeries experiences “physical, psychological, emotional, or physiological harms” from the surgery or “related treatment.” 

Minors who believe they were harmed by a gender-transition procedure have 30 years from their 18th birthday to file a civil action against a medical practitioner by seeking “declaratory or injunctive relief,” “compensatory damages,” “punitive damages” and “attorney’s fees and costs.” The bill makes an exception for surgeries performed on individuals with disorders of sexual development, chromosomal anomalies sometimes referred to as intersex conditions.

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Additionally, the measure calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to withhold federal funding from any state requiring medical providers to perform gender-transition procedures.

The proposed legislation defines a “gender-transition procedure” as the “prescription or administration of puberty-blocking drugs for the purpose of changing the body of an individual so that it conforms to the subjective sense of identity of the individual,” “the prescription or administration of cross-sex hormones” or “a surgery to change the body of an individual” for the same purpose.

In a statement on Twitter, Cotton warned that “Radical doctors in the U.S. are performing dangerous, experimental, and even sterilizing gender-transition procedures on young kids, who can’t even provide informed consent,” adding: “Our bill allows children who grow up to regret these procedures to sue for damages.” 

Banks also commented on the bill, maintaining that “Quacks have irreversibly damaged tens of thousands of American children to further the radical left’s agenda.” He cited the legislation as evidence that Cotton and himself were “serious about holding them accountable.” 

The Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act comes amid ongoing efforts at the state level as Republican-led legislatures and state agencies adopt measures restricting the medicalized gender transitioning of young people. 

Last year, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services published a letter characterizing “genital mutilation of a child through reassignment surgery” as “child abuse, subject to all rules and procedures pertaining to child abuse.” The state of Florida released a fact sheet in April declaring that no minor child should be prescribed puberty blockers and opposite-sex hormones to treat gender dysphoria.

The Florida Department of Health document further stated — referencing a 2021 article in the Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy — that “encouraging mastectomy, ovariectomy, uterine extirpation, penile disablement, tracheal shave, the prescription of hormones which are out of line with the genetic make-up of the child, or puberty blockers, are all clinical practices which run an unacceptably high risk of doing harm.” 

Last year, both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature overrode Gov. Asa Hutchison’s veto of the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, marking the first time a bill banning gender-transition procedures for minors became law anywhere in the country. Earlier this year, Alabama and Arizona followed suit by enacting similar laws. 

Internationally, several nations have begun halting the experimental practices to varying degrees. Among those countries reverting from prescribing puberty blockers or performing body mutilating surgeries are Sweden, France, Finland and the United Kingdom. Psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand, likewise, are urging greater caution. 

Echoing the Republican lawmakers, critics of the experimental practices have long said that lawsuits are likely coming, particularly from young people who recognized as adults that they were incapable of giving adequate informed consent to the drugs and surgeries as children and teenagers. 

“Detransitioners,” those who underwent hormonal and surgical gender practices and wound up regretting it and reintegrating with their natal sex, have noted the hurdles that exist regarding taking legal action against the surgeons that performed the irreversible procedures on their bodies. 

In a February 2020 feature story in The Christian Post, a male detransitioner who went by the pseudonym Marcus Fitz recalled how he endured years of opposite-sex hormone use and had an orchiectomy. He explained that most states, including California, where he lived, have one-year statutes of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. 

“They’ll say, ‘I want to sue!’ And my first question to them is: ‘Well, how long has it been?’” he said, describing his interactions with other detransitioners.

“It often takes several years to come out of this gaslighting fog of what has happened to us and by then, it’s far too late.” 

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