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Indiana lawmakers advance ban on state funding for gender transition surgeries

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Democrats on Thursday warned a bill on gender transition surgeries for prisoners could violate the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Thursday’s passage of House Bill 1569 marked the second time in a week the General Assembly sent Gov. Eric Holcomb a measure restricting access to gender transition care. The bill prohibits the use of state money or resources to facilitate gender transition surgery for inmates in the Department of Correction. DOC officials said 100 inmates are currently classified as gender diverse, meaning they are transgender, gender fluid or non-binary. Two of those inmates are currently suing to get gender transition surgery. One has settled their case and will undergo the surgery and the other is still pursuing their case.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said this effectively means lawmakers are trying to change public policy for one person. He said the U.S. Seventh Circuit, which includes Indiana, has already ruled such laws violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment due to the state’s obligations to provide inmates with medical care.

“I don’t think there’s any disagreement as to whether or not the state should pay for the surgery, I think it’s a disagreement as to whether the surgery should happen at all,” he said. “The lawsuit, once this person sues, is going to cost us more than had we just went ahead and paid for the surgery.”

Bill sponsor Sen. Stacey Donato, R-Logansport, said she disagreed with that assessment.

“The court ruled that statutorily prohibiting both hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery consisted (sic) deliberate indifference. Basically, denying any treatment options,” she said. “House Bill 1569 still allows treatment other than sex reassignment surgery.”

The bill now goes to the governor.