Rep. Meza files bills to address conversion therapy

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

The following article is a press release issued by State Rep. Terry Meza's office.

State Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) announced this week that she filed the final bill in a package of three she has filed to address the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" in Texas.

AUSTIN - State Rep. Terry Meza (D-Irving) announced this week that she filed the final bill in a package of three she has filed to address the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" in Texas.

Meza's bills tackle the legality and permissibility of the therapy itself, as well as insurance reimbursement for the practice.

House Bill 2516 would prohibit any public or private health plan operating or selling policies to Texas consumers from paying for or reimbursing for conversion therapy, whether that therapy is provided by a licensed professional or an unlicensed provider. It would also prohibit the state Medicaid program and Medicaid managed care program from funding conversion therapy.

Meza's House Bill 2753 prohibits any government body from a local water board to a municipality, county, or the state of Texas from purchasing any health benefit coverage for its employees that reimburses for or pays for conversion therapy.

House Bill 3196 would ban regulated corporate non-profit entities from offering any type of conversion therapy, whether offered by licensed or unlicensed professionals.

Under Meza's bill, if a non-profit corporation permits a healthcare provider or unlicensed individual to provide conversion therapy through that entity, the Texas Secretary of State would be allowed to terminate the filing entity. Additionally, any such entity would lose exemption from franchise tax under the Texas Tax Code.

"Most legitimate, licensed, regulated medical providers do not provide conversion therapy," Meza noted. "It is often lesser-regulated entities, such as non-profit organizations, that are still making this damaging practice available to Texas families," she noted. "Just like a Fortune 500 company, non-profit organizations are chartered under state law and the federal Nonprofit Corporations Act.  Any non-profit operating in this state is required to register with the Texas Secretary of State to have the right to operate in Texas," Meza continued. "Under my bill, if a non-profit is allowing someone to provide conversion therapy under its umbrella, they will lose their right to operate in Texas," she continued.

"Having followed the issue of conversion therapy for some time, I felt it was important that we addressed the practice performed by unlicensed individuals and those acting under the umbrella of non-profit organizations." Meza said.

Concerning her other bills, Meza noted that absent making the practice illegal in Texas, the best way to reduce its use is to make sure insurance companies cannot pick up the tab for conversion therapy.

"I have two bills on this topic. One bans any insurance company operating in Texas from paying for conversion therapy. The other bill bans any government entity from purchasing health plan coverage for its employees if that plan pays for conversion therapy," Meza said. "Texas is a very large marketplace for companies who wish to provide insurance for government employees," Meza said. "To do business with Texas government bodies, insurance companies would have to stop paying for conversion therapy if my bill passes," she noted. "My belief is this would result in a significant decrease in insurance policies covering conversion therapy across the public and private sectors, as most insurance companies will simply abandon paying for a practice if their largest customers are legally prohibited from buying their policies if they cover it," she noted.

Considered a pseudoscientific practice, conversion therapy is a type of therapy that purports to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using a variety of psychological, physical, and religious or spiritual methods. The practice is considered ineffective and harmful by the majority of mental health providers. The American Psychiatric Association opposes the treatment and has banned it among its members, noting that it is based on the assumption that a person's sexuality is a mental disorder, and considers the practice of conversion therapy unethical. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians and other medical associations have also condemned the practice.

New Mexico, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Illinois, Virginia, New York, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Colorado ban the practice. Various counties and municipalities including Cincinnati, Ohio; Miami, Florida; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Pima County, Arizona also ban the practice.

State Rep. Terry Meza is in her second term representing Irving and Grand Prairie in the Texas Legislature. Rep. Meza is an Irving native, and one of a small handful of former public school teachers holding seats in the Texas House of Representatives. She serves on the Committee on Human Services, the Committee on Public Education, and The Committee on Resolutions Calendars. Meza serves as the Texas House Democratic Caucus's member on the Texas Democratic Party's State Executive Committee, and on the HDC's Steering Committee.