State Sen. Ben Watson

ATLANTA – Controversial legislation prohibiting the prescribing or administering of puberty blockers to minors experiencing gender dysphoria died in the General Assembly on the final day of this year’s session when the Georgia House declined to take it up.

The state Senate passed the Republican-backed bill 32-19 Thursday, voting along party lines. But the measure failed to reach the House floor for a vote before the gavel fell on the legislative session shortly before 1 a.m. Friday.

The bill aimed at puberty blockers for minors was part of a Republican legislative agenda pertaining to transgender youths that Democrats derided as politically motivated to appeal to GOP base voters. Earlier this week, the Senate passed legislation that would require students to use bathrooms that match the gender identify on their birth certificate and prohibit transgender male students from participating in girls’ sports.

“Surgery is irreversible. Puberty blockers are irreversible,” Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, chairman of the Senate Health and Health Services Committee, told his Senate colleagues before Thursday’s vote. “By participating in an unproven treatment, (doctors) may do real harm.”

But Senate Democrats argued that prohibiting puberty blockers for minors would let the government interfere with decisions that ought to be left to young people uncomfortable with the mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity, their parents, and their doctors.

“We have no business stripping parents and health-care providers of the right to save children,” said Sen. Sonya Halpern, D-Atlanta.

Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said gender-affirming health care is supported by every credible medical organization in the nation.

But Watson said several European nations have tightened their laws governing puberty blockers for minors out of concern over their potential long-term effect. The United Kingdom’s National Health Service limits puberty blockers to clinical trials.

“They are not innocuous,” he said. “They have side effects.”