Senate Bill 5599 allows shelters to keep runaway juveniles from their parents to get an abortion and/or gender surgeries
The Center Square Washington
The Washington House has passed a bill allowing shelters to keep runaway juveniles from their parents to get an abortion and/or gender surgeries that include removing a girl’s breasts or uterus.
Although framed by proponents as a bill to protect youth suffering from abuse, SB 5599 only stipulates that the minors be “seeking or receiving protected health care services” for a homeless shelter or “host home” to avoid informing the parents or legal guardians, as otherwise required by state law.
Currently, if a runaway minor goes to a youth shelter, the organization must inform the parents or legal guardians within 24-72 hours. However, state law provides “compelling reasons” for them not to do so, including the belief that notifying the parents or legal guardians would subject the child to abuse or neglect.
The bill adds youth seeking abortions or irreversible gender surgeries to the list of compelling reasons while allocating $7.5 million to the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs for “supportive care grants to organizations to address the needs of youth and young adults seeking protected health care services.” The bill does not state when or if the parents ever need to be notified of their child’s whereabouts.
As defined by existing state law, “gender affirming care” includes but is not limited to the following procedures:
- Breast augmentation
- Chemical peel
- Facial feminization surgeries
- Face lift
- Facial masculinization surgeries
- Forehead brow lift
- Genital modification
- Hair line modification
- Hair removal by electrolysis or laser
- Lip enhancement
- Reduction thyroid chondroplasty (chondrolaryngoplasty or tracheal shave)
- Skin resurfacing
- Penile implant
- Voice modification
Combined with HB 1469, which has passed in both chambers, the two policies would allow youth from other states to run away from home, go to a Washington youth shelter seeking an abortion or gender surgery, and the parents would not have to be notified. Also, none of the medical records related to any of those services could be obtained.
“I am speaking to youth across our nation, across our state, and our communities.” Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island. “I see you. I affirm you, that I hear you, that I love you. With this passage of the bill, we are saying Washington state does, too.”
One amendment added on the House floor requires OHY to collect data on the number of unsheltered homeless youth in the state, while another requires the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to offer a runaway youth referrals to behavioral health services and services to “resolve the conflict and accomplish a reunification of the family.”
Existing family reunification services include:
- Short-term family counseling
- Crisis Residential Center services
- Referrals for substance abuse treatment and/or counseling
- Referrals for mental health services
- Short-term placement
Although SB 5599 does not address abuse or neglect, supporters speaking on the House floor before the April 12 vote conflated parents not accepting a child’s claim to be the opposite gender as akin to an “unsafe” home environment.
“Kids’ lives are literally at stake,” Rep. Nicole Macri, D-Seattle, told colleagues. “This bill is intended to keep them safe.”
The legislators rejected a proposed amendment from Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, that would have added language in the bill stating that “the lack of adequate affirmation of a child does not constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment in and of itself.”
“The clarify of our [existing] law…on what abuse and neglect is, is a helpful beacon in this confusion and misunderstanding,” Walsh said. “The existing statute that we have that defines abuse and neglect should be the standard for the state stepping in and interfering with family dynamics. If a family situation doesn’t meet the existing standard of abuse or neglect, then the state has no righteous role.”
Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, R-Republic, said, “if I’m to understand, the underlying policy is because those parents have kicked their child out of the home and they need a safe shelter. If there were signs of abuse, the state would be involved. That’s not what’s being said. You are saying that the state of Washington…can take this child and not contact the parents, with no signs of abuse, with no pending case of abuse, and the foster system [is] not involved. That is shocking.”
Reacting to the bill’s passage, podcaster and independent journalist and podcaster Brandi Kruse tweeted “not wanting your child to get gender transition care is now just as bad as physical abuse in Washington state and means the government can hide your kid from you. If not affirming your minor’s desired gender is abuse, what’s next? Removal from the home?”
SB 5599 will be sent back to the Senate for concurrence.
This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.
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