The Hill

Gender Reassignment Surgery Is Now Available To Oregon Minors Without Parental Consent

Boy/Girl
A controversial new law has been passed in Oregon that allows minors to get sex reassignment surgery. kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) CC BY-SA 2.0

The topic of gender has been much discussed recently, especially with the high-profile case of Bruce Jenner transitioning to Caitlyn Jenner. It’s a very hot-button topic and will probably become even more so once the political debates of 2016 get into full swing.

Gender dysphoria is defined as the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex. Though there aren’t any major numbers stating just how many people have gender dysphoria, it is well known that struggling with one’s identity can be a burden not just for the one struggling, but for friends, family, classmates, colleagues, and more.

In Oregon, a controversial new law has been in place since the beginning of 2015 that has left residents of the seemingly forward-thinking state stunned.

Gender reassignment is a procedure that Bruce Jenner underwent to complete his transformation from male to female. While he is a consenting adult, the new law in Oregon allows for minors as young as 15 to get the surgery, even without consent from their parents.

Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC) was petitioned by Jenn Burleton, co-founder of the Portland-based Trans Active Gender Center, to include sex change operations, cross-sex hormone therapy, and puberty-inhibiting medications in the covered procedures for the management of individuals with gender dysphoria. The HERC 12-member panel includes doctors and medical professionals, all of whom are approved by the governor. The change to cover the procedures was settled in January without public debate.

The age of medical consent in Oregon is 15, but how far that consent goes depends on the topic. At 15, teens in Oregon are able to, without their parent’s consent, have sex, receive birth control, take a pregnancy test, and get an abortion. Conversely, according to an article published by IJ Review, 15-year-olds are unable to smoke cigarettes or marijuana, drive alone, send or receive sexts, vote, work more than 18 hours a week, drink, eat unhealthy foods at school, get tattoos, administer aspirin at school or use a tanning bed.

While the new law is very controversial, advocates for it state that it can help reduce suicides in teens with gender dysphoria. When questioned for more information about how many teens have enrolled in the program or how much it would cost the state, HERC distributed a frequently asked questions sheet/fact sheet. It details the background, criteria, medical evidence and what, why and how HERC came about their decision to cover procedures under the new law.

The sheet also states that, although they are certainly able to, at the time of the fact sheet’s publishing, zero teens and 10 adults under the Oregon Health Plan have undergone sex reassignment surgery. 

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