COLUMBUS, Ohio — When House Democrats and medical professionals gathered for a press call Thursday morning, they did not hold back on their outrage.
“To our Republican colleagues, we say, our children’s genitalia are none of your business,” said Rep. Beth Liston, D-Dublin. “HB 151 isn’t a conservative bill; it’s a dangerous bill that will harm all kids.”
House Republicans passed the Save Women’s Sports Act on June 1, the first day of Pride month. It happened as a last-minute floor amendment, attached to HB 151, which focuses on education.
According to the bill’s language, if a student athlete’s gender is called into question, that athlete would have to undergo an internal and external exam of reproductive anatomy and have a blood test to determine testosterone levels and genetic makeup.
“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.
The two lawmakers were joined on Thursday morning’s call by Dr. Anita Somani, OBGYN at OhioHealth, and Dr. Patricia Goetz, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cleveland Clinic Mercy Hospital.
They all expressed concern about the impact this bill could have on student-athletes in the state if the bill were to become law.
“I can only imagine the trauma a middle school or high school girl would experience – first, on being accused of not being a true girl, and then having to undergo an invasive and painful exam in order to prove to a complete stranger that her genitals meet their expectations,” Dr. Somani said. “Legally forcing children to undergo medically unnecessary genital inspections and internal exams to play sports is horrifying, and I have been doing this all my life. I am appalled that Ohio House Republicans passed this bill. House Bill 151 must be stopped.”
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, defends the bill, despite the criticism.
“The Save Women’s Sports Act is a fairness issue,” Jones said in a statement to 10TV. “Most parents would agree girls should be able to compete in sports against other girls, not biological males.”
But not all of his Republican counterparts are pleased with the process.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman criticized the House for passing the legislation as a last-minute floor amendment. And he said the Senate may act differently on its own legislation – Senate Bill 132. But that discussion won’t happen until November. The Senate is on summer recess.
“If you want to do something, have a committee hearing, pass a bill, and I understand that sometimes you have to consolidate things, but this last-minute floor amendment thing, and now we’re holding you hostage, I’m not going to get held hostage by somebody putting in something at the last minute,” he said during a short briefing with the press Wednesday. “I think it’s a bad way to change policy, something that a lot of people are interested in, and so, we have a bill over here, and I think we’ll probably move that bill when we have time to properly vet it.”
Meanwhile, the Ohio High School Athletic Association publicly stands against both bills and released a statement to 10TV:
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. Of note, there have only been a total of 13 transgender female athletes who have participated in OHSAA sports since the 2015-16 school year, and only three of those athletes have played girls sports at the high school level. The remaining athletes were in 7th or 8th grade. We are hopeful the necessary conversations can be had so the General Assembly can make an informed decision based on Ohio’s specific regulations and safeguards.
Meanwhile, those gathered on Thursday’s call worried not only about the physical harm to student-athletes but also the psychological harm.
“I have grave concerns about the long-term negative impact of House Bill 151 and SB 132 on the psychological health of our girls,” Dr. Goetz said. “To those people who support these bills, or are undecided, I ask you simply, ‘would you want your daughter, granddaughter, niece or any child in your life that you care about, to be unfairly targeted by this law? Are you okay with them being traumatized in such a cruel and invasive fashion?’ Think about that.”
There are still several more steps that would have to happen this fall before the legislation would make it to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk. But he addressed the matter earlier this week.
“We gotta look at the language, we gotta see what the bill does,” DeWine said. “Again, we want to be a welcoming state to everyone. We also want to be a fair state.”