By: Kerry Garrett
In 2023, the Indiana state legislature has seen and passed a variety of bills, some of which have been a topic of frequent debate. Many of these echo similar legislation arising around the country this year.
Senate Bill 480 prohibits a physician or other medical practitioner from (1) knowingly providing gender-transition procedures to a minor under the age of 18, and (2) aiding or abetting another practitioner in the aforementioned process.
“Gender-transition procedures” includes sexual reassignment surgical procedures (SRS), hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or puberty blocking drugs, but does not include social or mental health services related to gender dysphoria. Practitioners who have previously provided gender-affirming procedures, are currently providing them or are scheduled to provide them may continue to do so until December 31, 2023.
This senate bill has incited heated controversy since its introduction. Supporters of this bill argue that SRS, HRT and puberty blockers impose substantial alterations to a young person’s body and mind, which they may not have the faculties to understand or consent to.
Those who oppose this bill argue that gender-affirming procedures, especially puberty blocking drugs (whose effects, unlike SRS and HRT, are reversible), are vital to the mental and physical wellbeing of a young person suffering from gender dysphoria, especially while the suicide rates of this demographic remain proportionally high.
Senate Bill 12 establishes a procedure in which a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in a school may report that a book in the school library is disseminating content harmful or inappropriate to minors. After this, the school must respond to the complaint, and an appeal procedure will be put into effect.
Through this process, a school library may have to deshelf the book containing alleged obscene or inappropriate matter. Schools are not eligible for a specific defense to criminal allegations, but colleges and universities are eligible.
While the contents of this bill are innocuous at face value, and it is undebatable that minors should not be exposed to violence and pornography, people across the states in which this bill is in effect have reported that what constitutes “inappropriate and damaging” content during these procedures has been nebulous and poorly defined. Many have used this as grounds for deshelving books about Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ characters.
Senate Bill 153 gives qualified pharmacists in Indiana the right to prescribe and dispense contraceptives, including hormonal contraceptive patches and self-administered oral contraceptives, such as Plan B or regular birth control pills.
This bill requires the pharmacist to (1) complete a related training program, (2) provide a self-screening to assess the risk of possible medical complications, such as high blood pressure, (3) take the patient’s blood pressure, (4) refer to the patient’s primary medical practitioner for a written record, (5) suggest a biannual wellness check with the primary practitioner, (6) dispense the contraceptive as quickly as possible and (7) inform the patient of all possible risks.
The pharmacist, however, is not permitted to dispense any drug that is considered an abortifacient, or a drug that medically induces an abortion.
Supporters of this bill see this new legislation as a necessary response to the recent overturning of Roe V. Wade and the uncertainty of abortion access going forward. They argue that the best way to prevent abortions is to prevent unwanted pregnancies altogether by increasing access to birth control and emergency contraceptives.
Opponents of this bill, however, doubt that this new legislation will do much to prevent abortions, and that it will “unequivocally lower the standard of care”, according to Senator Vaneta Becker. Many opponents of this bill also believe that birth control should only be prescribed and dispensed by medical practitioners, and not pharmacists.