Analyzing the Harms of California’s New ‘Gender-Affirming Health Care’ Law for Minors

COMMENTARY: California politicians are playing a shell game with the recently passed legislation, seeking to deflect attention away from its profound dangers.

The California State Capitol is seen in Sacramento.
The California State Capitol is seen in Sacramento. (photo: Susanne Pommer / Shutterstock)

In a shell game, magicians distract their audience away from the real object of interest by pushing empty shells forward to capture their attention. California politicians are playing a shell game right now with the recently passed S.B. 107 at its center. 

Opponents of the law warn that it gives California unprecedented power to take custody of children from parents (anywhere in the world) if they disagree with the state’s view about treating children’s gender confusion. But the bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Gov. Gavin Newsom say the bill does nothing new. They downplay the bill’s embrace of “gender transition” — a euphemism for the experimental, off-label use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and surgeries like mastectomies that irreversibly harm children. To see whether Wiener and Newsom are putting forward facts or obscuring the truth, we scrutinize the details of S.B. 107. 

 

First Claim: S.B. 107 Does Not Expand California Courts’ Power Over Child Custody

Sen. Wiener claimed, according to Reuters, that S.B. 107 does not confer any new authority on courts to take custody of gender-confused children from their parents. Weiner claimed the legislation “doesn’t change custody laws in any way” and only guides courts in cases that California law already permits them to hear in certain “emergency” situations. 

The reality is that S.B. 107 massively expands the jurisdiction of California courts so they can ignore the jurisdiction of other states (and countries) and terminate the custody of parents who disagree with gender ideology. S.B. 107 does this by inserting a highly controversial and ideologically driven view of childhood gender dysphoria into family law. 

There is a heated global debate among medical professionals over how to treat childhood gender dysphoria, a sense of alienation that some feel between their biological sex and their internal sense of “gender.” Such feelings resolve in 80% to 95% of kids if they do not undergo experimental drugs and surgeries. But now, many kids are being fast-tracked to permanent body alterations described as “gender-affirming health care” in S.B. 107. 

After systematic review by medical experts, Florida, Sweden, Finland and the U.K. decided to limit the use of hormones to treat gender dysphoria in youth because of an absence of evidence that the benefits of hormone use outweigh the risks. In fact, hormonal and surgical interventions on children create serious risks of permanent damage, including impaired heart function, loss of bone density and even sterility.

The California Legislature ignored these risks and attacked the rights of parents who try to shield their children from these dangers. S.B. 107 imports California’s ideological approach to gender dysphoria from its Welfare & Institutions Code into the Family Code. This expands the emergency power of California courts to give them jurisdiction over gender-dysphoric children who are in the state of California, even if they are from another state or country. 

Section 5 of S.B. 107 says that a California court has “temporary emergency jurisdiction” over any child in the state who claims to have been “unable to obtain gender-affirming health care.” Section 4 of S.B. 107 says that courts may make an “initial custody determination … if the presence of the child in this state is for the purpose of obtaining gender-affirming mental health care.” Embedding gender ideology into the Family Code makes parents who disagree presumptively unfit in the eyes of the law.

California has already overridden the rights of its own parents who disagreed with gender ideology. The outcomes for children were tragic. S.B. 107 now creates a perverse incentive for confused children around the world to run away from home to get drugs and surgeries in California. Adding “gender-affirming care” to the definition of an “emergency” gives California courts new authority to remove custody from well-meaning parents everywhere.

S.B. 107 also creates dangerous incentives for ill-meaning relatives or parents to “take” a child from a custodial parent for gender transition in California. Section 7 of S.B. 107 carves out exceptions to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and justifies conduct that what would otherwise be treated as “unjustifiable.” The law puts a mother or father who has legal custody of their child but opposes gender ideology on the same footing as a parent who commits domestic violence. 

Lastly, Section 6(f)(1) of S.B. 107 forbids a California judge from determining that their court is an “inconvenient forum” for a custody determination (even if another state would normally be the convenient forum), if claims of gender ideology are invoked.

 

Second Claim: S.B. 107 Is Pro-Parental Rights

Gov. Newsom’s statement on S.B. 107 claiming that it takes a “stand for parental choice” is misleading. In addition to threatening the custodial rights of parents who oppose dangerous interventions on their child’s body, S.B. 107 violates the rights of parents in other ways. Defenders of S.B. 107 claim it is “designed to protect California healthcare providers from being forced to divulge medical records to attorneys and courts in other states for civil cases arising from the other states’ “bans on such care.” Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee and Arizona protect minors from harmful surgeries and hormones. S.B. 107 would deny parents in those states the right to obtain medical information about their children from a California court (see Sections 1, 2, 3 and 10). Creating a barrier between a parent and a medical provider over gender ideology interferes with a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their child.


Third Claim: Limiting Harmful Interventions on Children’s Bodies Leads to More Suicides

Gov. Newsom also claimed that limiting hormonal and surgical interventions will lead to more suicides among youth. However, the most thorough, long-term study of individuals who underwent sex-reassignment surgery in Sweden found that such treatments actually increase the suicide rates up to 20 times. Another study concluded that allowing minors to have easier access to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones without parental involvement increases adolescent suicide rates.  

 

Conclusion

The truth about S.B. 107 cannot be hidden. S.B. 107 empowers California courts to violate the rights of mothers and fathers around the world to obtain medical information about their child, to make decisions about their child’s health care, and to retain custody of their child if they will not comply with California’s embrace of gender ideology. S.B. 107 attempts to turn California courts into international tribunals for deciding who gets to choose how to treat confused children. If California can grab power from parents over gender ideology, what prevents it from using other ideologies to violate parental rights? 

Weiner and Newsom want to hide S.B. 107’s radical overreach, but parents are watching. Laws on parental rights and child custody should strongly defer to the decisions of loving parents. Enshrining gender ideology into family law to expand California’s jurisdiction to the entire world is reckless. 

The Church everywhere should pray that S.B. 107 will be stopped so that loving parents can protect their children’s minds, bodies and most precious relationships.  

 

Emilie Kao is senior counsel and vice president of advocacy strategy at Alliance Defending Freedom. 

Emilie Kao
Emilie Kao(Photo: Courtesy photo)


Sharon Supp is Alliance Defending Freedom’s senior research analyst.

Sharom Supp
Sharon Supp (Photo: Courtesy photo)
Father Alberto Reyes has emerged as a critical voice against the extreme poverty and repressive actions of Cuba's police state.

Cuba’s Government Shuts Down Priest’s Peaceful Protest

The Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba “manages the different aspects of religious life” in the country, as noted in the 2023 Religious Freedom Report of Aid to the Church in Need.