Here’s a chance, after previous missed opportunities, for Louisiana to get atypically out in front and on the right side of an issue and protect children.
It’s the last state to convene its legislature, and many others aren’t waiting to file bills that prevent potentially destructive pharmaceutical and surgical interventions on children. Some already have acted to prohibit sexual transition surgery on children and the administration of puberty blockers without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports such a position, with an excellent recitation of it as of last year contained in HR 158 by Republican Rep. Gabe Firment, a bill passed in last year’s regular session. Mounting evidence since then has led additional public health authorities worldwide to take that more cautious view encapsulated in the bills now advancing in about 20 statehouses.
HR 158 asks the Department of Health to study the issue, with a report due in mid-February, to report data similar to that used to justify the other advancing bills, so it is inconceivable that the same patterns wouldn’t be observed if such a study is done. Study resolutions such as these the Legislature churns out in the dozens each year, and not rarely the executive branch agencies responsible for their production ignore them, especially when the policy ideas behind these contradict those of their leaders and/or appointing official, as in this case Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
So, there’s a good bet that nothing will come of this, particularly as HR 158 did originate from a bill that would have initiated action, Firment’s HB 570 that largely replicates the other advancing bills. Firment introduced his at the beginning of last year’s session, but the bill never even received a hearing from the House Health and Welfare Committee in large part because GOP Speaker Clay Schexnayder, in a chamber with a 2-1 GOP majority, only named nine Republicans of 18 voting members to it, and one, Republican Rep. Joe Stagni, is the most consistent maverick of all the House party. Thus, after a couple of months Firment had to settle for the study bill.
That obstacle has to change. Schexnayder either has to rearrange committee assignments to put a clear conservative majority on that panel or he can’t stand in the way of a discharge motion to get the bill, if trapped again, out onto the floor where he must schedule it for a vote. Something similar happened last year with another bill designed to overcome current transgender ideology, blocked by a few renegade Republicans, that the entire party put out onto the floor, but Schexnayder and GOP Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee refused to schedule it.
That can’t happen again. So often behind other states when it comes to enlightened policy-making, Louisiana can break with that tendency by having such a bill offered and passed this year. And being that it’s an election year, likely more than one non-Republican with endangered reelection chances could join with the GOP to override an expected veto by the leftist Edwards.
Children’s well-being, health, and possibly their lives hang in the balance. Policy-makers mustn’t let them down.