A contentious bill put forth by Democratic legislators in Washington would permit youth shelters to decline to notify parents that their child has run away if the child seeks “gender-affirming treatment.”
The House Committee on Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning is presently considering Senate Bill 5599, which was introduced by Senator Marko Liias (D) and passed the Senate by a vote of 27–19.
A parent must be notified about a runaway child by homeless youth shelters within 24 to 72 hours, according to state legislation. The shelter is required to give parents notice of the child’s whereabouts, emotional and bodily health, and how the child came to be at the shelter.
However, if “a compelling reason applies,” such as if shelter staff believe the child may be being abused or neglected, shelters are not required to notify the parents.
The legislation aims to create a new “compelling reason” for homeless youth shelters to refuse to inform parents, such as if the kid wants “gender-affirming treatment” or “reproductive health care services,” like an abortion.
According to state law, gender-affirming procedures include liposuction, breast augmentation, mastectomy, penile implant, genital modification, hairline modification, hair removal, hysterectomy, tracheal shaving, rhinoplasty, facial feminization, facial masculinization, and voice alteration.
Supporters of the measure argued that failing to affirm a child’s gender identity results in an “unsafe” home setting for the child.
Sara Kukkonen, an educator with Planned Parenthood Greater Northwest who supports the legislation, spoke last week before the House Human Services, Youth, and Early Learning Committee about the distinction between an “unsafe” and “unsupportive” household.
Kukkonen said, “I don’t always believe that they mean exactly the same thing in every context — in this instance, they may result in the same outcome. Unsafe can undoubtedly imply violence, and I believe that being unsupportive can result in abuse. Maybe not everybody would consider it unsafe, yet unsupportive households could have a severe impact on a person’s mental health.”
The proposed legislation’s detractors claim that it would violate family rights and permit operations that might permanently alter a child’s body.
Even after the child has already gotten what could be permanent “gender-affirming treatment,” the bill never mandates that youth shelters inform the parents.
The bill would not require evidence or reasonable suspicion that the child’s parents have abandoned the child, despite Democratic lawmakers’ claims that it is meant to protect children who have experienced being “rejected or abandoned.”
An amendment to the law that would have mandated that the kid receive counseling services prior to receiving medical treatment was rejected. It was also decided against a second plan that would have restricted “gender-affirming care” to counseling services.
Liias stated, “We need to focus on the young person’s basic needs, make sure they are receiving the care they deserve, and then focus on the crucial family reunification procedure and the supports we have to achieve that.”