Twenty-one states have passed laws restricting access to such procedures, and others are having discussions. Less than two weeks ago Louisiana lawmakers met to override the state's Democratic governor's ban on gender-transition care. Some states have begun to impose penalties on adults facilitating access.
During hearings, the House Judiciary Committee saw video of a self-proclaimed "queer surgeon" who described procedures he's conducted on children. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), a member of the committee, appeared on Washington Watch Thursday afternoon.
"You have adults who are doing this terrible experiment upon young children. They are surgically modifying their anatomy. It's hard to use language that's appropriate for mixed audiences to describe what they're doing to young children, very often without parental consent. They are doing long-term untold damage to these children physically, mentally, spiritually," Johnson said.
While conservative states work to squash such practices, liberal states work to speed up access. "What we exposed [during the hearings] is really the nightmare, the horror that is happening now increasingly around the country," Johnson told show host Tony Perkins.
Among witnesses to appear before the committee was young Chole Cole, who has become the representative face of how things can go wrong with these procedures. She pleaded with lawmakers to act, describing a childhood that was "ruined."
Cole was little more than a child, just a 13-year-old teenager, when she began her regrettable transition journey. The next four years included use of generic puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone treatments and a double mastectomy, Cole's attorney told Fox News in February.
Now Cole, 19, has "de-transitioned" and has filed a lawsuit that alleges Kaiser Hospitals was "pushing her into medical mutilation instead of properly treating her," attorney Harmeet K. Dhillon said.
"What Kaiser did, for profit, to Chloe in the name of woke ideology instead of sound medical practice should not happen to any child in America," Dhillon wrote on social media.
Congressman Johnson claimed medical professionals are withholding information about the possible dangers of such procedures while drug companies chase the dollars.
"[Patients] are not giving them fully informed consent for these medical procedures, and it's a gross violation of medical standards in most places. It's medical malpractice, and it should be regarded as such," he said.
Pharmaceutical companies, meanwhile, are skating around government regulations to make a buck, Johnson said, with "off-label" drugs that delay puberty and create alternate physical characteristics in young boys and girls.
"We made the point in the hearing that there are big pharmaceutical companies and others who have a financial interest in using pharmaceuticals off-label – in other words, in ways that the FDA has never approved – to chemically castrate children. I mean that's literally quite literally what is happening there," Johnson exclaimed.
Cole connects with a transgender parent
In the process of sharing her story, Cole connected off-camera with a committee witness who appeared in favor of gender-manipulation medical procedures. Cole wanted this mother of a transitioning teenager to know there were other options for young people who have confused feelings and questions about their sex.
"It was really beautiful to see," said Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, of the Family Research Council, who also testified before the committee. "She was just saying, 'I don't think this is the right care. I hope that for your child it doesn't go the way that what I experienced,' and she said, 'My parents were told that they would have a dead child if they didn't go down this path.' She was offering a real deep empathy."
This exchange between Cole and the parent made many of the committee's Democratic members uncomfortable, according to Bauwens.
"This is what you wouldn't see on C-SPAN. I saw some of the members, the Democrat members, and they were so disengaged, disconnected and almost disassociated from what was happening in the room as Chloe shared," Bauwens shared on Washington Watch. "That spoke volumes. You have this young girl who has been to Hell and back sharing her story, and it was as if it was too much of their time to pay attention."
Some Democrats can't bear the details
Bauwens said it's quite possible that for some Democratic members of the committee that a light was beginning to shine on the nature of some people who help pay the bills.
"I think the reality is it's too painful, perhaps, to be supported financially by some of the advocacy groups, then actually listen to what they're aligned with," she offered.
Bauwens recalled that some Democrats simply walked out of a previous hearing when vivid details of transition procedures were shared.
"It's one thing to say, 'We're the compassionate ones. We're the ones who care for kids. This is life-saving care' – but you won't even stay in the room where this kind of care is being discussed because it's just so egregious to you? But at the same time, you'll endorse it and take money from groups that support it," Bauwens said.
If Cole's story was ignored by some lawmakers, others were moved by it. Rep. Johnson saw a great contrast in her outward appearance and the inward person she described.
"She's a beautiful young woman, but she says she feels like a monster inside. Again, you have Democrats in Congress who just want to affirm this," he said. "They want to allow these butchers, these surgeons who are doing these terrible things to children … and they pretend as though that's some sort of benefit to society. It's just outrageous."
Cole backed up Johnson's claims against the medical profession, telling committee members that she felt her parents were "coerced" into giving consent for gender transition. "They were told either your child transitions, or she dies," the 19-year-old told the committee.
Bauwens reacted to that revelation: "That's manipulation, the threat that somebody's going to kill themselves," she said.
"Where do we do that in any other mental health practice? It's not actually good practice to give some person who is struggling with some issue … to lean into that issue and further exploit it rather than finding out what's really going on and helping them through it."