Last week, House Republicans discreetly passed a new anti-trans bill through the Ohio Statehouse. At 11:15pm on Wednesday night, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” or House Bill 61, which would effectively ban transgender girls and women from participating in high school and college athletics, moved swiftly onto the State Senate. While this bill isn’t at all unlike a vast majority that are currently advancing in statehouses across the country, this one features exceptionally egregious measures—namely, a “verification process” that allows doctors to examine and confirm the genitals of any athlete that might be “accused” of being transgender. It also includes measures for a testosterone level and genetic makeup check.
According to Morgan Trau, a Columbus-based ABC-affiliate reporter, the bill wasn’t originally on the legislative schedule. At the last minute, Republican representatives added the language to a different, entirely unrelated bill, H.B. 151—a revision of Ohio’s Teacher Residency Program.
“If a participant’s sex is disputed, the participant shall establish the participant’s sex by presenting a signed physician’s statement indicating the participant’s sex based upon only the following: (1) The participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy; (2) The participant’s normal endogenously produced levels of testosterone; (3) An analysis of the participant’s genetic makeup,” the bill reads.
The bill is co-sponsored by Republicans Rep. Jena Powell and Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus. As it became news, Powell tweeted: “The Save Women’s Sports Act is a fairness issue for women. This bill ensures that every little girl who works hard to make it on a podium is not robbed of her chance by a biological male competing against her in a biological female sport.”
The bill was first introduced in 2021 and has passed the House. In essence, this legislation would empower parents, teachers, peers and the like to police the sex of children as young as 10-years-old—in some cases, subjecting them to state-sanctioned examinations of their genitalia by a doctor. Republicans will call it anything but sexual assault, but state Democrats, LGBTQ+ advocates, and parents on social media are saying the quiet part out loud.
As the bill continued to make news, Mario Bruno, a legislative policy director for Equality Ohio, told 13-ABC, “I know that there are a lot of folks in the LGBTQ community who are sitting there asking themselves, ‘What did I do to them? Because they keep coming after me,’ and I can’t blame them for having that perspective. But the answer is nothing, just existing.” According to Equality Ohio and the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OSHAA), there is only one transgender girl in the state that’s currently participating in high school athletics.
“There are not scores of girls’ dreams being crushed, there is one child trying to play on their high school sports team,” said Democratic Rep. Beth Liston during debate on the bill. “This is a made-up controversy, and this amendment is state-sanctioned bullying against one child.” Liston, a physician, also called the inclusion of examinations “disturbing.”
Additionally, a Twitter thread that made plain what the legislation entailed in painstaking detail went viral over the weekend. The account, @polevaultpower, wrote that an examination would entail a doctor to complete a full pelvic examination—including an inspection of the clitoris to verify that it’s not oversized and therefore an indicator of a child being intersex—of a child absent of any issue.
Ohio lawmakers are now on summer vacation and multiple representatives have told reporters that they will likely not vote on this bill until after November election.