In the United States, we believe individuals have a right to pursue happiness. It is called out in our founding documents as a god given inalienable right. Government intervenes when the exercise of these rights come into conflict with another's constitutional rights. A simple example of this conflict is when one person, in an effort to pursue happiness, takes something from another person. This act infringes on the second person's right and is prohibited by the government.
Parents take seriously the responsibility to take care of and look after their children. While children have the right to pursue happiness, parents are involved in the decision making process and many choices require parental consent. Parents have both responsibilities and rights as it relates to the rearing of their children. We seek to protect parental rights, although they are also limited. While the vast majority of the parents may exceptional choices with regard to their children, the State restricts some of the choices that parents can make. Parents can't authorize or require their children to marry. They can't give them unprescribed drugs. Parents are not authorized to abuse or neglect their children.
Last, minors have rights, but their rights are also restricted. Minors are subject to the appropriate exercise of parental rights. We restrict driving, enlisting in the military, marriage, entertainment and media content, consuming products or substances, and entering into binding contractual agreements. While each of these examples may have undesired consequences, they are not permanent. One can leave military service, divorce, stop consuming certain media or products, and a minor who enters into a contract with an adult is voidable.
2023 Utah Senate Bill 16 address a sensitive issue. The bill is titled "Transgender Medical Treatments and Procedures Amendments". It was sponsored in the Senate by a practicing physician and in the House by a practicing nurse. This bill does specific things:
1. It requires the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a systematic review of the medical evidence regarding hormonal transgender treatments and provide recommendations to the Legislature.
2. It prohibits a health care provider from providing a hormonal transgender treatment to new patients.
3. It prohibits performing sex characteristic surgical procedures on a minor for the purpose of effectuating a sex change.
4. It addresses certain legal remedies.
Before voting on this bill, I spoke to people who felt strongly from both sides. I recognize that there are individuals who believe the Utah Legislature made the wrong decision on this issue. A key consideration for me related to the principle of both protecting and restricting individual rights. A minor who chooses to participate in this procedure can't undo the procedure. It is permanent. We are asking a minor to be accountable for a decision that in a contractual context we prohibit. We don't judge minors competent to marry or contract. Allowing a minor, even with their parents support and consent, to make this kind of life altering elective decision is premature. Some would argue that this is a life saving procedure and that there are other medical parallels. I respect that perspective. As I weighed the issue, I felt voting for the bill was the right thing to do.
Below is a link to the full text of the bill.