South Carolina governor signs law banning gender-affirming care for minors

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a law Tuesday that bans gender-affirming care for minors. "I signed the Help Not Harm bill into law to protect our state's children from irreversible gender transition procedures." File Photo by Stephen B. Morton/EPA

May 21 (UPI) -- South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law Tuesday a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, as critics called it a "cruel and dangerous assault on trans youth."

The law, which takes effect immediately and prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or performing gender-transition surgeries for patients under 18, makes South Carolina the 25th state to restrict or ban gender-affirming care.

"I signed the Help Not Harm bill into law, which protects our state's children from irreversible gender transition procedures and bans public funds from being used for them," McMaster, a Republican, wrote Tuesday in a post on X. "I look forward to joining legislators and supporters at a ceremonial bill signing in the Upstate next week."

In addition to banning the prescription of puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery, South Carolina's new law bans public funds and Medicaid from being used to cover the cost of transition-related healthcare for residents of any age.

Healthcare professionals in South Carolina who provide gender-affirming care to minors could have their licenses revoked or face civil lawsuits. Doctors who perform gender transition surgery on minors could face charges of inflicting bodily injury and face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.

South Carolina's new law also requires school administrators to contact parents whose children choose to use a different name or pronouns other than their sex assigned at birth.

The Help Not Harm measure passed earlier this month by a vote of 28 to 8 in the state Senate and 67 to 26 in the state House.

Critics blasted the new law, calling H.4624 a "broad intrusion into medically necessary healthcare for transgender South Carolinians."

"This bill is a cruel and dangerous assault on trans youth and adults in South Carolina that ignores the guidance of every major medical organization," Chase Glenn of SC United for Justice and Equality said in a statement Tuesday.

"Across the state, from the Lowcountry to the Upstate, South Carolinians are mourning the passage of H.4624, which will make it immeasurably harder for transgender youth and many adults to access the life-saving healthcare that they need and deserve," Glenn added. "But let me be clear: This loss does not crumble a movement."

The Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project has offered to help transgender youth identify out-of-state gender-affirming care providers with emergency grants to offset costs.

"Healthcare is a human right -- and it breaks my heart to see lawmakers rip away life-affirming and often life-saving medical care from transgender youth in South Carolina," Uplift Outreach Center Executive Director Raymond Velazquez said after lawmakers passed the ban.

"No one should be forced to leave their home state to access the care that they need and deserve."