Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill to protect minors from experimental transgender medical interventions that are euphemistically referred to as “gender-affirming care.”
DeWine, a Republican, framed his veto of House Bill 68 on Friday as an effort to bring consensus on a divisive issue and to avoid having the government decide what medical decisions are best for children.
“Were House Bill 68 to become law, Ohio would be saying that the state, that the government, knows better what is best for a child than the two people who love that child the most, the parents,” DeWine said.
The bill, called the Enact Ohio Saving Adolescents from Experimentation Act, would bar physicians from performing gender-reassignment surgery on a minor and from prescribing cross-sex hormones or drugs to block puberty for the purpose of gender transition. It also would enable students to sue if they are deprived of a fair playing field in sports due to gender activism and protect parents’ rights to raise their children according to their biological sex.
DeWine insisted that a bureaucratic rulemaking process would be more likely to produce rules that would survive legal challenges. Similar laws restricting experimental gender interventions have faced court challenges, although many have survived legal scrutiny.
“I truly believe that we can address a number of goals in House Bill 68 by administrative rules that will have likely a better chance of surviving judicial review and being adopted,” the Ohio governor said.
DeWine announced that he is directing his administration to draft rules to protect minors while allowing some minors to undergo experimental “treatments.”
DeWine said he “sought out people on all sides of the issue to hear their concerns,” including critics of transgender interventions, “physicians and counselors who provide gender-affirming care,” and people who had “negative experiences” and “positive experiences.”
The governor echoed pro-transgender activists who claim that minors with gender dysphoria (the painful and persistent condition of identifying with the gender other than their biological sex) will commit suicide if they can’t take hormones or undergo other “treatments” to make their bodies resemble those of the opposite sex.
“Ultimately, I believe this is about protecting human life,” DeWine said. “Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived, would be dead today” without such interventions.
He also recalled speaking to adults who argued that if they had not undertaken these interventions, “they would have taken their life when they were teenagers.”
DeWine noted that many detransitioners—those who formerly underwent interventions only to reject a transgender identity later—“reported that they did not receive adequate counseling.” He pledged to draft rules to “prevent pop-up clinics and fly-by-night operations.”
The governor noted that many who reported positive experiences said “they received significant counseling, therapy, and consultation as a family.”
He invited state legislators “to meet with us to collaborate,” insisting that he shares many of their goals, including preventing surgeries for minors and obtaining “comprehensive data” on the interventions.
Many doctors have testified that “gender-affirming care” is experimental and that counseling and therapy may resolve deep-seated issues underlying gender dysphoria.
Bill’s Sponsor Responds
State Rep. Gary Click, the bill’s sponsor, released a statement after DeWine’s veto.
Click, also a Republican, said he and DeWine “share a common passion for children,” and he commended the governor for “digging through the details of this legislation and for speaking to several qualified individuals capable of shedding light on this issue.”
“While I commend him for those efforts, The SAFE Act has been thoroughly vetted through two general assemblies, both chambers of the legislature, and numerous witnesses,” Click added. “I have invited the administration to participate in the process from the beginning and continue to believe that we would have benefited sooner if that had been accomplished.”
While Click noted that DeWine’s “heart was moved by those who spoke to him concerning the loss of life through suicide,” he said that “multiple conversations with professionals and families who felt manipulated by similar rhetoric brought a more in-depth understanding of the time-tested, best practices in suicide prevention.”
He expressed hope about working with DeWine on the issues in the future, but lamented that the protections for women’s sports in the bill would be delayed.
LGBTQ activist groups celebrated DeWine’s veto.
“This is a huge win for trans youth and their families in Ohio,” the Human Rights Campaign posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Critics of gender ideology condemned the move.
“Gov. DeWine’s capitulation to radical gender ideology is outrageous and unacceptable,” Kevin Roberts, the president of Heritage Action for America, told The Daily Signal. “We all have a duty to protect children and female athletes from irreversible physical and psychological damage. HB 68 is commonsense legislation with broad, bipartisan support—state lawmakers should override the governor’s veto immediately.” (The Daily Signal is The Heritage Foundation’s news outlet.)
“Kids are not social or science experiments—and boys do not belong in girls’ sports,” Roberts added. “HB 68 protects children from irreversible damage by banning the use of experimental surgeries and cross-sex hormones on vulnerable kids and ensures fairness for female athletes by banning males from spaces and fields created specifically for women and girls. These measures are not controversial.”
“So-called ‘gender affirming care’ turns these children into lifetime medical patients,” Ian Kingsbury, director of research at the medical group Do No Harm, told The Daily Signal. “It puts them at risk of infertility, loss of sexual function, obesity, and certain cancers. For medical transition among children to even be considered a form of health care it would need to be clear that there are benefits that outweigh the enormous risks. No such evidence exists.”
“Unless or until the medical profession stakes out a reasonable position, the state has a compelling interest to intervene to prevent these dangerous interventions,” Kingsbury added.
“America’s most powerful institutions claim, despite the obvious physical evidence to the contrary, that men can become women and vice versa. Even worse, they are encouraging young children to undergo dangerous medical procedures which sterilize and mutilate their bodies to pursue this impossible goal,” Terry Schilling, president of American Principles Project, said in a written statement on DeWine’s veto.
“Now, more than ever, we need leaders who will stand up to these egregious lies and act to protect our children and families. Unfortunately, Governor DeWine has shown he is no such leader,” Schilling added. “History will forever remember that when courage was called for, DeWine instead gave into cowardice and caved to the transgender industry that is preying on so many vulnerable individuals. Despite the fact that most Republicans and even some Democrats are now seeing this predatory industry for what it is, DeWine still refused to do the right thing.”
Schilling urged DeWine to step down as governor.
“Ohio families deserve far better, and if DeWine is unable to find the backbone to protect them, he should step aside in favor of someone who will,” Schilling said.
“DeWine just vetoed an outstanding bill that protected the integrity, fairness, and safety of sports, and protected children from unethical medical attempts at the impossible—‘affirming’ a sexual ‘identity’ at odds with reality,” Ethics and Public Policy Center President Ryan T. Anderson posted on X. “Have caved to special interests.”
Editor’s note: This breaking story has been updated with statements from Click, Roberts, and Kingsbury.
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