Ohio Lawmakers Scrap Genital Exams for K-12 Student-Athletes

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — A controversial provision to require "internal and external" exams to verify a student's sex before playing on K-12 sports teams in Ohio was scrapped Tuesday.

Senate Republicans replaced that part of House Bill 151 with a requirement that athletes whose sex is disputed "present a copy of the participant's original birth certificate," according to the amendment. The news didn't come as a surprise to LGBTQ groups after the near-universal pushback since the bill passed the Ohio House in June.

Ohio's chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that pelvic exams are not commonplace for children and that doing so could be psychologically harmful or even traumatic.

And conservatives like Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, and Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer both called the examination provision unnecessary and unhelpful to their goal of preventing transgender women from playing women's sports.

"In fact, that was an error when it was in the amendments in the House," House Speaker Bob Cupp said Tuesday. "So there's no objection, in fact, our members would encourage it to come out."

House Bill 151 would still ban transgender girls from female sports

What remains in HB 151 is a blanket ban on transgender girls playing on female sports teams in middle and high school but not in college. An earlier version of the bill included public and private universities, but that language was also stripped from the legislation Tuesday.

The Republican women who introduced these bills say transgender girls have certain biological advantages that make them faster, stronger, and more likely to beat their cisgender peers.

"It’s just an issue of absolute fairness," Sen. Kristina Roegner told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau when she introduced her bill in May 2021.

Ohio's statewide record for the boy's 100-meter dash is 10.38 seconds. The world record for the women's 100-meter dash (set by U.S. Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner) is 10.49 seconds.

Opponents say middle and high school sports are about so much more than competition. They see HB 151 as discrimination against an incredibly small group of students who face much higher rates of bullying, depression, and suicide.

Currently, the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows transgender boys and girls to compete on teams that align with their gender providing they meet certain criteria like a year of hormone therapy.

The association has approved a total of 35 transgender male athletes and 11 transgender female athletes over the six years its policy has been in place. And only one transgender girl plays on an Ohio varsity team.

If this new, amended version passes the Senate it will have to go back to the Ohio House for one more vote before heading to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's desk.

Anna Staver is a reporter with the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. It serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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