Ohio Government’s New Policies Threaten Access to Transgender Health Care, Health Risks Ensue

Columbus, Ohio – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently introduced proposed regulations that could potentially restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender individuals, drawing concerns from advocates and healthcare providers. The proposed rules, released by the Ohio Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, are said to involve significant hurdles and requirements for individuals seeking gender-affirming care from independent clinics and general practitioners.

Under these proposed regulations, patients under 21 would be required to undergo at least six months of mental health counseling before starting gender-affirming medication or surgery. Additionally, the rules would mandate the involvement of psychiatrists, endocrinologists, and medical ethicists in creating facility-wide gender-affirming care plans for patients of all ages.

Transgender advocates and healthcare professionals have criticized the proposed rules, arguing that they go beyond the standard of care established by organizations such as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. According to Kellan Baker, executive director of the Whitman-Walker Institute, the regulations are designed to make accessing care so onerous and restrictive that individuals are effectively unable to do so.

Critics also argue that the proposed rules could disproportionately impact lower-income, minority, and rural transgender individuals, creating additional barriers to accessing necessary care. Mimi Rivard, a nurse practitioner and clinical director at Central Outreach Wellness Center Ohio’s Columbus clinic, expressed concerns over the potential impact of the regulations, stating that they may hinder healthcare providers’ ability to adhere to the oaths they’ve taken as caregivers.

In response to the proposed rules, advocates have raised concerns about the potential health risks and barriers to care that transgender individuals may face if the regulations are implemented. “Dr. Carl Streed Jr., president of U.S. Professional Association for Transgender Health, noted abortion is the only other realm in which states have weighed in to bar health professionals from providing services allowed by their licenses,” the article says.

The impact of these regulations on transgender patients may vary depending on where they seek treatment. While larger academic medical centers may already employ the required specialists, smaller clinics and general practitioners could face challenges in meeting the proposed requirements. Equitas Health, a Columbus-based nonprofit focused on LGBTQ+ health care, has expressed strong opposition to the regulations but also indicated a willingness to comply with the requirements to continue offering gender-affirming care if the rules are finalized.

The proposed regulations, which come amidst a flurry of legislative activity related to gender-affirming care, have generated significant backlash from advocates and healthcare professionals. With public comment periods open for both proposals, the state’s handling of transgender health care has sparked widespread controversy and criticism from various sectors of the community.