The list of things 15-year-olds are not legally allowed to do in Oregon is long: Drive, smoke, donate blood, get a tattoo — even go to a tanning bed.
But, under a first-in-the-nation policy quietly enacted in January that many parents are only now finding out about, 15-year-olds are now allowed to get a sex-change operation. Many residents are stunned to learn they can do it without parental notification — and the state will even pay for it through its Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan.
“It is trespassing on the hearts, the minds, the bodies of our children,” said Lori Porter of Parents’ Rights in Education. “They’re our children. And for a decision, a life-altering decision like that to be done unbeknownst to a parent or guardian, it’s mindboggling.”
In a statement, Oregon Health Authority spokeswoman Susan Wickstrom explained it this way: “Age of medical consent varies by state. Oregon law — which applies to both Medicaid and non-Medicaid Oregonians — states that the age of medical consent is 15.”
While 15 is the medical age of consent in the state, the decision to cover sex-change operations specifically was made by the Health Evidence Review Commission (HERC).
Members are appointed by the governor and paid by the state of Oregon. With no public debate, HERC changed its policy to include cross-sex hormone therapy, puberty-suppressing drugs and gender-reassignment surgery as covered treatments for people with gender dysphoria, formally known as gender identity disorder.