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Louisiana advances ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Louisiana State Capitol
Posted at 5:32 AM, May 03, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is the latest to join a growing list of states pushing to ban gender-affirming medical care to minors, as conservatives lawmakers across the country target transgender rights.

A bill that would prohibit doctors from performing “gender transition procedures" — such as hormone treatments, gender reassignment surgery or puberty-blocking drugs — on anyone under the age of 18 in Louisiana, received bipartisan support in a legislative committee Tuesday. The measure, which also establishes penalties for health professionals who provide such care, will advance to the Republican-controlled House for what is all but certain to be an emotionally charged debate.

Proponents of the bill say it will “protect" children from life-altering medical procedures until they are “mature enough” to make such serious decisions.

“This bill is not about hate, or fear, or sexual orientation. It’s not about race, or particular religion or party affiliation. This bill is about protecting innocent children," Republican state Rep. Michael “Gabe” Firment, who authored the legislation, said to lawmakers Tuesday.

Opponents argue that gender-affirming care, which is supported by numerous major medical organizations, can be life-saving for someone with gender dysphoria — distress over gender identity that doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community fear that without the care, transgender children could face heightened risks of spiraling into depression and anxiety. Multiple studies have shown that transgender youth are more likely to consider or attempt suicide and are less at risk for depression and suicidal behaviors when able to access gender-affirming care.

“I want to tell you what will happen if this ban passes ... some transgender children, who we could have helped with hormone therapy, will exhaust all other options and will commit suicide," Clifton Mixon, a pediatric psychologist in Louisiana who works in a gender clinic, said to lawmakers. "You will have blood on your hands,” Mixon said, a phrase frequently used in politics and one that echoes the words used by Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a transgender lawmaker who recently made national headlines after she was punished for admonishing her Republican colleagues over a similar bill.

Currently, children in Louisiana need parental permission to receive any gender-affirming health care before they turn 18. Many opponents of the bill who spoke Monday said that finding and gaining timely access to gender-affirming medical care is already a struggle.

This debate is happening in statehouses across the U.S. as lawmakers take aim at nearly every facet of transgender existence — from health care to athletics to bathroom access to pronouns.

SarahJane Guidry, the executive director of Forum for Equality, said her organization has been fighting for and to protect LGBTQ+ rights in Louisiana for 30 years.

“Not once have we passed any legislation to protect trans people in the state," Guidry said. "But we will continue to disregard and strip them of the protections that they have, medically and within their homes, to have their own choices and their own responsibility over their own bodies.”

At least 16 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors. Additionally, three states — Florida, Missouri and Texas — have banned or restricted the care with regulations or administrative orders. Missouri is the only one that also limits the treatments for adults, a restriction that has been blocked by a judge.

In some blue states, including Minnesota and Washington, laws protecting access to gender-affirming care have been enacted.