Governor signs bill banning surgical procedures for minors seeking gender-affirming care
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation Saturday banning hormone treatments and surgery for minors seeking gender-affirming care.
Senate Bill 16, which the governor signed into law the day after it was sent to his desk by the Utah Legislature, prohibits health care providers from “offering transgender hormonal treatment to new patients who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria before a certain date.” and prohibits them from “performing gender-specific surgery on a minor to induce sex reassignment.”
It also directs the Utah Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a “systematic review of the medical evidence supporting transgender hormonal treatments.”
Hormone therapy is one of many treatment options for transgender people. The therapy consists of either “feminizing (estrogen) or masculinizing (testosterone) hormones” that transgender people “take as part of a gender reassignment surgery to match their physique and appearance to their gender identity,” according to Planned Parenthood, the gender-affirming hormone care company.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says in a policy statement that hormone replacement therapy is appropriate beginning in early adolescence, while gender-affirming surgeries, such as “top” surgery to remove or enhance breasts or genital surgery, are typically appropriate for adults.
In a statement, Cox said the bill was “not perfect” and called for more research into treatments for transgender youth.
“Laws that affect our most vulnerable youth must be carefully considered and balanced,” the Republican governor said in the statement. “While it’s not a perfect bill, we’re grateful for Senator (Michael) Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue. More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these long-lasting and life-changing treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”
“We will continue to urge lawmakers to allocate additional resources to organizations working to serve this important Utah community,” he added. “While we understand that our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to understand the science and ramifications behind.” better understand this process.”
Earlier, the ACLU’s Utah chapter issued a statement opposing the legislation. The nonprofit said that “further studies into hormone treatment, as called for in this bill, are unnecessary as there is already a wealth of scientific evidence and consensus among major medical and professional organizations supporting hormone treatment for transgender youth.” ”
The burdens placed on healthcare providers by the law “may discourage them from serving transgender youth,” the ACLU added.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a professional organization made up of health professionals who treat transgender patients, says specialized health care has been provided to transgender youth since the 1980s. Although data on transgender youth is limited, the organization says existing research “shows an overall improvement in the lives of transgender youth who, after careful evaluation, receive medically necessary gender-affirming medical treatment.”
Major medical associations—including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry—also agree that gender-affirming treatment for children and adults is clinically appropriate and can be life-saving . The US Department of Health and Human Services describes gender-sensitive grooming as “critical to the overall health and well-being” of transgender youth.
But the treatment of transgender youth has come under fire in the past year, particularly in Republican states. Over 58,000 transgender youth ages 13 and older face limited access, or proposals for limited access, to gender-affirming care, according to estimates by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which conducts research on laws and policies related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Utah’s law follows similar restrictions in other Republican-controlled states. In April of last year, the Florida Department of Health advised against all gender-affirming care given to children and adolescents, including social transitions where a child or adolescent adopts a name, gender pronoun and clothing consistent with their gender identity.
That same month, Alabama passed its own law making it a criminal offense for doctors to treat minors in a gender-affirming manner. And in February, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Department of Family and Protection Services to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse.