Missouri joins the growing list of states placing caps on transgender healthcare, athletes

Missouri joins the growing list of states placing caps on transgender healthcare, athletes
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Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) signed into law Wednesday legislation that will block transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming medical care and prevent transgender women and girls from competing on women’s sports teams.

Both laws will go into effect in August.

Missouri Senate Bill 49, which bans gender-affirming care, will prohibit health care providers in the state from administering drugs, including puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, to treat gender dysphoria in minors, with an exception cut out for transgender youth who started treatment before the law’s effective date of August 28.

The measure also prevents transgender children and adolescents under the age of 18 from undergoing gender-affirming surgeries.

“We support everyone’s right to their own pursuit of happiness; however, we must protect children from making life-changing decisions that they may regret in adulthood once they have matured physically and emotionally,” Parson said in a statement Wednesday.

“These decisions have lifelong consequences and should not be made by impressionable children who may be in crisis or influenced by the political beliefs of others,” he added.

Missouri joins 19 other states that have enacted laws or policies that severely limit or ban gender-affirming health care, 17 of which have done so this year. Gender-affirming care is considered medically necessary by all major medical organizations.

Health care workers who violate the new law will have their professional licenses revoked, according to the bill, which also states that the provision of gender-affirming medical care to a minor “must be considered grounds for legal action against the health care worker.” – which means that young patients can more easily sue their doctors.

The new law also prohibits MO HealthNet, the state’s Medicaid program, from covering transition-related procedures and prevents Missouri jails, jails and correctional centers from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender inmates, regardless of their age.

The bill, which passed the Missouri House in May, hit several initial snags after it was introduced in the state Senate in January, despite a Republican majority in the upper house. A Democrat-led filibuster effort in the Senate abruptly halted floor action for several days in March, causing the frustrated Republican leadership to be adjourned for a scheduled spring break a full day early.

Parson in April threatened to keep lawmakers working beyond the state’s regular legislative session, which ended on May 30, if they didn’t pass Senate Bill 49 and Senate Bill 39, banning transgender athletes.

Both measures were only able to advance through the state Senate after hours of closed-door negotiations between party leaders and an agreement that each law will contain a sunset clause that will cause each measure to expire after four years. This means that both laws will expire on August 28, 2027.

In an email, State Sen. Mike Moon, a Republican and sponsor of the gender-affirming health care ban, said he hoped to remove his bill’s sunset clause before it expires.

“The reason the clause was added is that Democrats wanted it and the Republican leadership was unwilling to invest the necessary effort to counter it,” he wrote. “In the end, though, I can only blame myself.”

Parson’s signature on Moon’s bill is the latest in a series of steps Missouri officials have taken this year to limit access to gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and adults in the state.

In April, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who is about to be re-elected, implemented an emergency regulation arguing that gender-affirming child medical care is already illegal under a state law that prohibits certain medical interventions in the absence of “substantial guardrails”.

Bailey’s order, however, included severe restrictions on the care of transgender adults, as well as children. Among other provisions, the order required individuals to exhibit at least three years of “a medically documented, long-lasting, persistent, and intense pattern of gender dysphoria” to qualify for the assistance.

The emergency rule was abruptly ended last month.

In February, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced that his office had launched an investigation into a transgender pediatric clinic in St. Louis after a first-person account by a former employee of the clinic alleged years of negligence.

Bailey’s office also launched an investigation into the clinic based on the former employee’s account, which was disputed by a report in the St. Louis Dispatch. Nearly two dozen parents of children seen at the clinic told the outlet the allegations “just aren’t true”.

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