Oct 5, 2022 - Health

Oklahoma hospital system halts some trans youth care after state funding threat

governor pointing thumbs up

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference 2022 in Dallas. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The University of Oklahoma Medical Center stopped some health services for trans youth under 18 after the governor signed a bill that would withhold federal funds if the state's flagship academic health system did not comply.

The big picture: Republican-led states have increasingly introduced and enacted legislation targeting transgender youth — even as medical associations have widely supported gender-affirming care.

Why it matters: Oklahoma has already enacted laws that restrict trans youths' ability to play sports, use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity and banning nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates.

  • But this new bill sets a precedent that could be replicated by other states.

Driving the news: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) on Tuesday signed a bill that authorizes more than $108 million in pandemic relief money to OU's medical center.

  • But the money — which would be used for cancer care, pediatric behavioral health care and other infrastructure would be withheld if the Oklahoma Children's Hospital did not stop providing gender-affirming medical care to minors.
  • Medical services related to gender identity had previously been available for those up to age 24, according to OU Health's website.
  • The Oklahoman had reported that about 100 children receive gender-affirming care at the children's hospital.

What they're saying: “It is wildly inappropriate for taxpayer dollars to be used for condoning, promoting, or performing these types of controversial procedures on healthy children,” Stitt said in a statement.

  • “Medical decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors,” Tamya Cox-Toure, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement.
  • “Yet politicians, attempting to appeal to their base during an election year, have continued their attacks on bodily autonomy by coming between those directly impacted and the care they need and deserve.”

Of note: Three medical groups sent a letter to the Justice Department this week to investigate increasing threats of violence against children's hospitals and staff providing gender-affirming care.

What's next: Oklahoma could face a lawsuit over the bill, NBC writes.

  • The ACLU and other groups have successfully argued that state Medicaid policies cannot bar coverage for gender-affirming care for transgender patients if they provide those same treatments to treat other conditions for other patients.

Go deeper: 2021 sees a record number of bills targeting trans youth

Go deeper