Jan 23, 2023 - News

Utah Republicans target gender-affirming health care

Illustration of a stethoscope with the transgender icon as the chest piece.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A controversial bill that would prohibit gender-affirming health care and place a moratorium on puberty blockers for transgender children is moving quickly through the Utah Legislature.

Details: SB 16, sponsored by Sen. Michael Kennedy (R-Alpine) would also ban surgical procedures for minors "for the purpose of effectuating a sex change."

  • It would allow patients to sue providers for prescribing hormone therapy and puberty blockers.
  • Kennedy said he's proposing the bill to allow for more research on the long-term effects of gender-affirming health care.

Yes, but: Last year, the American Medical Association said the "government intrusion" into gender-affirming health care was "detrimental" to transgender children and adults.

  • “Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender-diverse people," according to a statement from the AMA.

The big picture: So far 11 states, including Utah, have introduced similar bills this year.

The latest: The bill passed the Senate in a 27-7 final vote on Friday and now heads to the House.

  • "The House is going to have its way with this bill and I know it's going to change. I know everyone has an interest in what this bill is," Kennedy, a family physician, said on the Senate floor last week.

The other side: "This could have potentially significant implications for the mental health of trans youth in Utah," James McGraw, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Bowling Green State University who studies mental health disparities among LGBTQ+ people, told Axios. "[They're] basically having an entire way of getting better mental and physical care eliminated for them."

  • Sen. Nate Blouin (D-Salt Lake City) on Friday read a letter from his legislative intern, who is transgender, opposing the bill.
  • "Even before SB 16 has passed the Senate, this bill has already negatively impacted my health and well-being and is causing adverse effects on Utah’s trans community," he read.
  • Democratic lawmakers also expressed concerns over the legal ramifications of the bill.

Between the lines: Kennedy said he would not place a timeline for the moratorium, saying that he did not want to rush the research.

Flashback: Last year, the Legislature overrode a veto from Gov. Spencer Cox and passed a bill that banned transgender girls from competing in school sports matching their gender identity.

  • Its implementation is currently on pause amid a lawsuit.

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