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Holcomb signs gender-affirming care ban for trans youth into law

Governor Eric Holcomb sits at a microphone during a COVID-19 press conference in 2021. He wears a grey quarter-zip with the Riley Children's Hospital logo and sits in front of a navy blue curtain. He is a white man with white and grey hair, wearing wire-rimmed glasses.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Previous to signing the bill, Holcomb said the issue was “clear as mud” – but also cautioned that it was “entirely different” than the transgender girls athletes ban, which he vetoed last year.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Enrolled Act 480 into law Wednesday, along with 10 other bills that were waiting for his signature. The ban on medicinal and surgical gender-affirming care for transgender youth takes effect July 1.

Previous to signing the bill, Holcomb said the issue was “clear as mud” – but also cautioned that it was “entirely different” than the transgender girls athletes ban, which he vetoed last year.

In a statement, Holcomb said it is “important that we recognize and understand” that struggles with gender dysphoria are real. But also said that medical transitions should “occur as an adult, not a minor.”

Gender-affirming care is health care that encompasses mental, social, medical and surgical care designed to treat gender dysphoria.

SEA 480 bans gender-affirming surgeries, which aren’t provided to minors in Indiana, and medicinal gender-affirming care – like hormone therapy and puberty blockers. Those treatments are far more common and lawmakers behind the measure repeated misinformation about them, calling them “irreversible” and “harmful.”

The newly signed law forces transgender youth who are already receiving medicinal gender-affirming care to de-transition by the end of 2023. During testimony on the legislation, transgender adolescents, young adults and their parents told lawmakers the bill would force them to leave the state.

The ACLU of Indiana issued a statement following Holcomb’s signature and said it intends – as the ACLU has done in other states – to challenge new and proposed bans on gender-affirming care.

Executive director Jane Henegar called Holcomb’s decision a “devastating development for transgender youth in Indiana.”

“In addition to targeting an already vulnerable group, this law blatantly disregards the rights of parents and families to make decisions about their children’s health. The ACLU is dedicated to overturning this unconstitutional law and is confident the state will find itself completely incapable of defending it in court,” Henegar said in a statement.

READ MORE: What is gender-affirming care?

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The vast majority of medical organizations support gender-affirming care, and there is national and international guidance on age-appropriate interventions for transgender youth.

Sen. Tyler Johnson (R-Leo), the bill’s author, applauded Holcomb’s decision and said in a statement that the law maintains access to “sensible counseling.”

SEA 480 is part of a national push of anti-LGBTQ+ and specifically anti-trans legislation. More than 130 gender-affirming care bans have been filed in statehouses across the U.S., and more than 450 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed just since Jan. 1.

Indiana lawmakers filed about two dozen anti-LGBTQ+ bills during the 2023 legislative session, tripling previous years.

The measure is one of two gender-affirming care bans that moved forward after the midpoint of the legislative session. A ban on surgical gender-affirming care for people in state prisons is moving to the governor’s desk. It is likely to face a legal battle under the banner of cruel and unusual punishment for denying medical care.

This story has been updated.

Lauren is our digital editor. Contact her at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

Lauren is the digital editor for our statewide collaboration, and is based in Indianapolis at WFYI. Since starting for IPB News in 2016, she's covered everything from protests and COVID-19 to esports and policy. She's a proud Ball State University alumna and grew up on the west side of Indianapolis.