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Ohio House Democrats slam language in trans athlete ban as ‘state-sanctioned sexual abuse’

Felicia DeRosa leads a group of protesters in chanting outside the Ohio Statehouse. They are opposed to HB454 which would ban doctors from performing gender transition procedures for minors.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Felicia DeRosa leads a group of protesters in chanting outside the Ohio Statehouse. They are opposed to HB454 which would ban doctors from performing gender transition procedures for minors.

Democratic lawmakers in Ohio are blasting language in a proposed House bill that would require a student athlete to get an invasive exam if someone lodges a complaint questioning their sex.

The bill, HB151, was amended to include a ban on transgender athletes from participating in women sports both in high school and college athletics.

The legislative language included a portion that stated if a student athlete’s sex is disputed, that student must present a “signed physician's statement indicating the participant's sex.”

That statement must be based on an internal and external reproductive anatomy exam, findings of normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone, and an analysis of the participant's genetic makeup.

House Democrats expressed their outrage over the language.

“This extreme legislation — which would require children to have genital exams to play high school sports — is nothing short of state-sanctioned sexual abuse,” said Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), a survivor of child sexual abuse.

The lawmakers held a press conference with health care professionals — who are also hopefuls for state legislative office — to call for their Republican counterparts to stop moving the bill forward.

Dr. Patricia Goetz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is running for the Democratic nomination in an Ohio Senate race. Goetz said the bill does not create limits as to who can lodge the dispute over a child’s sex.

“These bills, if implemented, would add fear that someone might dispute what sex a child is for any reason,” said Goetz. “This would intensify a girl's fear about her body and this would result in a cascade of problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use and self-injurious behaviors.”

All but one House Republican voted for the bill. Supporters argued it would protect women sports and that transgender women would have an unfair advantage.

Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport), who was a teacher for more than 20 years, said the bill is a “fairness issue.”

“Most parents would agree girls should be able to compete in sports against other girls, not biological males,” said Jones.

Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) suggested another alternative for trans athletes.

“We seem to have different groups for everything. Why not a trans swim team? Why not a trans athletic team? Why do we always have to infringe on other people’s things?" Carruthers asked.

The Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA) is the regulating entity for middle and high school sports. The group already has policies in place stating that transgender student athletes should have equal opportunity to participate in sports.

To compete on a girl’s team, a transgender athlete must either complete a minimum of one year of hormone treatment or demonstrate “by way of sound medical evidence” that she does not possess physical or physiological advantages.

“The OHSAA believes that our current transgender policy is effective in protecting the integrity of girls sports, while also providing participation opportunities for the highly vulnerable group of transgender students,” Tim Stried, OHSAA director of media relations, said in a statement.

Stried added that a total of 13 transgender female athletes have participated in OHSAA sports since the 2015-2016 school year. Of those athletes, three played in girls’ sports at the high school level while the rest were at the middle school level.

Republican lawmakers supporting the measure have not addressed concerns over the language regarding invasive exams.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the Senate plans on taking up the issue in November, but through a separate bill already introduced in his chamber. Huffman added that the issue needed more vetting and discussion.

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