On Friday, March 19, the governor signed Senate Bill 140, which would prohibit surgical procedures “performed for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics” and the use of hormone therapy “on a minor for the treatment of gender dysphoria.” The bill was amended to remove language barring criminal and civil liability for physicians based on the legislation. The Georgia Academy opposed this legislation on the basis that it is legislative interference into the practice of medicine, and concern over the criminalization of physician care to a patient.
After the bill passed both chambers, a coalition of physician organizations worked with outside counsel to draft a letter requesting that the governor veto the legislation. The letter stated in part:
On behalf of over 10,000 Georgia physicians and including the Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, Georgia Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics, Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Georgia Osteopathic Medical Association, Georgia Chapter – American College of Physicians, we urge the Governor to Veto Senate Bill 140/AP).
We believe that this legislation represents a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine and provision of care for patients and is so vague that well-intended clinicians could be viewed as violating its standards and therefore face serious consequences.
We strongly oppose any legislation or regulation that interferes in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician and are concerned that Senate Bill 140, as passed by the Georgia General Assembly, will undermine our ability to counsel and provide medically necessary care for our patients by subjecting physicians to potential criminal liability.
As family physicians, we must be able to practice medicine that is informed by our years of medical education, training, experience, and available evidence, freely and without threat of punishment. Our organizations have strongly opposed any legislation or regulation that interferes in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician. Patients, including youth, must be able to discuss gender-affirming care with their trusted physician to determine together what care is best for them.
The trusted relationship between a physician and their patient should never be jeopardized by the actions of policymakers, and a physician should not be criminalized or penalized for providing care.
Leadership discussed this legislation and it’s multiple different versions of the bill, and it included the Legislative Session Working Group, the Legislative Committee, the Executive Committee, and the GAFP Board of Directors. Multiple voices, and opinions were shared over the course of the debate on this delicate issue. We appreciate all voices of Georgia’s family physicians, as we appreciate all of our members and their review of these key issues.