Updated Feb 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The states seeking bans on transgender minors' medical treatments


Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least eight states have considered bills that, if passed, would outlaw transgender minors' access to gender-affirming medical treatments.

The latest: A South Dakota Senate committee on Monday killed a bill that would have punished medical professionals with a $2,000 fine and a year in prison if they treated transgender minors with puberty blockers, hormone therapies or gender-related surgeries, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

  • A Florida House subcommittee in early February considered a bill that would make it a class 2 felony for physicians to administer gender-related treatments to minors but did not vote to hold a hearing on the bill, essentially tabling the measure, according to the Miami Herald.
  • A similar bill introduced in the Florida Senate still has to be considered by a committee.

Why it matters: The bills, seen by LGBTQ advocates as a conservative wedge issue in an election year, go against established best medical practices shown to improve mental health and quality of life — including puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries.

  • For kids experiencing gender dysphoria — frequently endured by transgender people — puberty blockers can reduce depression and anxiety, improve social interactions with other kids, reduce thoughts related to self-harm and eliminate the need for future surgeries, per Mayo Clinic.
  • Gender-affirming surgery can lead to long-term mental health benefits, researchers promoted by the American Journal of Psychiatry found.

What's happening: South Dakota, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky have considered bills that would make administering gender-related treatments a criminal offense or an act of unprofessional conduct subject to loss of medical license.

  • Missouri’s legislature is considering four separate bills pertaining to preventing minors from receiving treatments. One bill would classify parents who approve of treatments for minors as child abusers.
  • Longtime Republican Rep. Brad Daw of Utah said in mid-January he plans to introduce a bill that would ban minor confirmation treatments, according to CBS-affiliate KUTV.

What they’re saying: “Gender-affirming medical care for transgender and gender-diverse minors is life-saving,” Alex Keuroghlian, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Psychiatry Gender Identity Program and Fenway Institute’s National LGBT Health Education Center, told NBC News.

  • Puberty "blockers put puberty on hold so that adolescents have more time to decide what to do next. Without them, the adolescent will have physical changes that are difficult if not impossible to reverse," Jack Turban, resident physician in psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital, told Vox.

The big picture: Approximately 150,000 people ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender in the U.S., according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. No state has yet completely banned transgender minors' access to gender confirmation treatments, CNN reports.

Go deeper: What the research says about hormones and surgery for transgender youth (Journalist's Resource)

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the latest developments.

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