MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Sparks flew during Wednesday night’s First Congressional District debate between Dr. Annie Andrews (D) and incumbent Congresswoman Nancy Mace (R) while discussing so-called gender-affirming treatments.

Debate moderator Carolyn Murray asked the two candidates about the issue – which became contentious in recent weeks – regarding treatment for transgender individuals.

A leading transgender health association lowered its recommended age for beginning gender transitioning treatment, including sex hormones and surgery, to 14 years. Researchers said they believed withholding these types of treatments was unethical and harmful.

When asked about her position on the treatments and new, lower age, Rep. Mace stated that she felt anything permanent and irreversible “like hormonal puberty blockers” and sex change surgery on minors was “child abuse.”

It echoes a September 26th statement the Republican Congresswoman shared on her Twitter account alleging that Dr. Andrews’ support for “gender-affirming therapy and surgery on young kids” was child abuse.

“There is so much that we just don’t know. Puberty is life changing and when you give these kinds of drugs to kids and you do these kinds of permanent procedures that are irreversible, you can’t take that back,” Rep. Mace said, adding that people should make that decision when they become an adult “once nature has taken its course.”

Rep. Mace was asked what she would say to children and their parents who believe this type of treatment is necessary after consulting with their own doctors while calling the move child abuse.

“Sex change surgery on a minor child is child abuse,” she replied. “That is something my opponent supported as recently as last year until a few weeks ago when we called her out on it. I would not support a child consenting to something that is permanent and irreversible. Growing your hair out, changing the way that you dress, changing your pronouns as a child – those are all things that you can modify later on in life.”

The claims prompted Dr. Andrews to take an unpaid leave from her job as a pediatrician at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital after she felt threatened. She said the move was “to protect myself and my colleagues,” in a statement on September 28.

Dr. Andrews struck back at Rep. Mace during the debate saying, “bullying children is never okay especially when you are a sitting member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

As Rep. Mace offered a response saying she did not feel she was bullying anyone, Dr. Andrews went on to say “as a pediatrician, it is my duty and privilege to serve every child in the Lowcountry. The attacks that Nancy has thrown at me and our children’s hospital, and vulnerable transgender youth, are hateful, bigoted, and built on lies. And they are doing real harm to children in this community.”

Dr. Andrews attempted to clarify herself saying she does not support gender-affirming surgery on minors. “I never have, and those surgeries have never been done in the Lowcountry. But you know what I do see? I see transgender kids who show up in the hospital after trying to kill themselves because of bullying from adults like Nancy Mace,” she stated.

The remarks launched a back-and-forth between the two candidates accusing each other of putting children in danger. You can watch that response below: