Utah just banned gender-affirming healthcare for transgender kids. These 21 other states are considering similar bills in 2023.
Utah passed a bill this week that bans minors from receiving gender-transition healthcare.
At least 21 other states are considering bills this year that would enact similar bans.
Gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy, is considered medically necessary for many trans youth.
Transgender children in Utah won't be able to start gender-affirming healthcare thanks to a bill signed into law by Republican Governor Spencer Cox over the weekend.
The bill — which was approved 58-14 by House Republicans — prohibits medical providers from offering gender-affirming surgical procedures to anyone under 18, and bans gender-affirming hormonal treatment for any new patients under 18.
Minors who were already receiving care for a gender dysphoria diagnosis can continue their hormonal treatment, but new patients cannot begin.
Utah joins six states that already ban a variety of gender-affirming healthcare for people under 18, and at least 21 other states are considering similar anti-trans healthcare bills in 2023, according to a database from the ACLU. Republicans are leading that push for restrictive new laws.
Doctors, psychologists, and medical practitioners across the country widely consider gender-affirming healthcare such as puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy to be medically necessary for trans youth.
The American Medical Association says on its website that "every major medical association recognizes the vital role of gender-affirming care in improving the physical health and mental well-being of transgender individuals."
Gov. Cox defended Utah's new law, claiming it was "pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences."
But, contrary to Cox's claim, advocates say the bodily changes that result from hormone therapy are not actually permanent but "partially, if not fully reversible," according to the Transgender Law Center.
And research from the Mayo Clinic has found that kids can actually identify and understand their own gender by age 3.
The American Medical Association has repeatedly condemned attempts like these to limit gender-affirming care, calling them "discriminatory actions" and "dangerous government intrusions into the practice of medicine."
These states are seeking to ban healthcare for transgender people
So far this year, 21 states are considering a total of 72 bills, according to data provided by the ACLU, that seek to restrict gender-affirming care for trans youth — care that often includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy, and much more rarely for minors, surgeries.
Texas — which already bans surgeries and hormone treatments for minors — is currently considering three separate bills that would make providing gender-affirming care to minors a form of child abuse, punishable as a second-degree felony. Similarly, Missouri lawmakers introduced a bill that would criminalize any adult who "coerces" a minor into gender-affirming care, classifying it as felony child abuse or neglect.
Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Indiana, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Montana — all Republican-controlled states — have bills that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors under 18.
Republicans in Democrat-controlled New Jersey introduced a similar bill in September. Kentucky state legislators are considering a similar bill, but the state has divided party control, with Republicans controlling both chambers of the state legislature and a Democrat holding the governorship.
Tennessee passed a bill last year restricting surgery for minors and banning hormone treatments for prepubescent kids, but this year has introduced a new bill that would expand restrictions on gender-affirming care.
Republican-controlled Mississippi has already passed a bill in the House, according to local outlet Mississippi Today, that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth under 18. The bill is now headed to the state Senate.
Republican lawmakers in Hawaii and Oregon — both states controlled by Democrats — have also introduced bills that seek to prohibit and criminalize gender reassignment surgeries on minors, despite the fact that these procedures are not commonly performed on minors, according to Reuters.
And while the 15 above states have proposed bills that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors under 18, six states are seeking to restrict such healthcare for some adults over 18.
Nebraska's Republican-led legislature has introduced two bills this year that seek to ban gender-affirming care for youth under the age of 19.
Kansas and Virginia — which both have divided party control — have bills that would ban gender-affirming care to anyone under 21. New Hampshire and South Carolina — both under full Republican control — have similar bills for trans youth and adults under 21.
And Republican-controlled Oklahoma has a similar bill that would extend the age up to 26.
In addition to Utah, Texas, and Tennessee — which all already restrict some forms of gender-affirming care, as discussed above — four other states passed laws last year banning certain gender-affirming healthcare for minors. Arizona law restricts surgery for minors. Alabama and Arkansas's laws ban surgeries and hormone treatments for minors — both laws are currently caught up in legal battles.
The Florida medical board set up a rule last year that prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgeries to minors, according to the Washington Post.
Experts and past data show that many of these bills are unlikely to pass
A report from the Human Rights Campaign found that out of over 300 bills in the US in 2022 targeting the rights of LGBTQ individuals — including bills prohibiting gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth — less than 10% of them became law.
As for the bills being considered this year, Gillian Branstetter, a communications strategist at the ACLU, told Insider, "Most of these bills will die. But, far too many will become law."
"In fact, one too many has already become law," she said, in reference to Utah's new restrictions.
"They're all extreme, they're all unconstitutional," Branstetter continued. "They're all a deep violation of the rights of these young trans people to be themselves."
It's not just trans healthcare that is being targeted by a slate of new Republican-led bills.
The ACLU has tracked 234 anti-LGBTQ bills in the US so far in the 2023 legislative session. For example, in Arkansas, legislators are considering a bill that would classify drag performances as an "adult-oriented business," which would add additional restrictions to where drag shows can happen.
Branstetter stressed that transgender people are no strangers to having their lives policed and their existence criminalized. "So we know how to keep each other alive," she told Insider. "We know how to help each other and build support networks and find community with one another. And more importantly, we know how to fight back."
"I think things will get worse before they get better, but they will in fact get better," she said.
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