(The Center Square) - Democrats and Republicans voted against a bill that would allocate nearly $109 million for health care after lawmakers inserted a provision that would have banned using the money for children's gender reassignment treatment at Oklahoma University Health.
The money is part of the $1.87 billion funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding whittled down many requests to just over 60 projects.
Senate Bill 3 allocated $5.2 million to improve dental health through mobile dental units, $20 million for cancer treatment, $44 million for an electronic record system and $39.4 million for children's mental and behavioral health through Oklahoma University Health.
Senate Speaker Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers learned in June that OU Health was offering gender reassignment treatment for children. That's when they added wording to the bill that prohibited the funding from being used for the treatment.
"People want to make sure we are not using taxpayer monies to perform a service that they find reprehensible and not a valid medical intervention for people, especially under the age of 18," Treat said.
The House and Senate both held lengthy debates, with some Republicans calling gender reassignment surgery "genetic mutilation" and "child abuse."
Some Republicans voted against the bill, saying it should be expanded to health care providers besides OU Health.
"Under this bill, these ARPA funds can be used, taxpayer dollars, can be used by OU to form sex-change surgeries on 18-years-olds," said Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. "We shouldn't just have this limited scope. We should have a statewide ban and prohibition on the this taking place on minors. We should have a statewide ban on taxpayer dollars going to these procedures."
Democrats said the ban would harm children diagnosed with gender dysphoria and keep them from getting treatment.
Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they, them and theirs, called the bill "policy in the place of bigotry."
"I feel like it's so odd that the party of small government is a party that says 'Small government for me but for you with a microscope,'" Turner said. "I find it so odd that the party of small government says, 'You can have the best medical practices as long as I get to choose what your best medical treatments are.'"
Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, called the bill "cheap political tricks."
"It's typical red meat," Dollens said. "You got your way with Roe [vs. Wade] and now you need something else. The dog finally caught the car, it doesn't know what to do so you throw out more red meat, something socially divisive to stir up your base and get them to go out to the polls."
The bill passed by a vote of 31-13 in the Senate and 67-24 in the House.
via Oklahoma's Center Square News