Families sue to block Missouri’s ban on gender-affirming health care for kids

26 July 2023

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Families of transgender children on Tuesday sued to block a new Missouri law banning gender-affirming health care for minors from taking effect as scheduled on Aug. 28.

The law will prohibit Missouri health care providers from providing puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries to minors. Minors prescribed puberty blockers or hormones before Aug. 28 would be able to continue to receive those treatments.

Missouri’s Planned Parenthood clinics had been ramping up available appointments and holding pop-up clinics to start patients on treatments ahead of the law taking effect.

Lawyers sued on behalf of three families of transgender minors, doctors and two LGBTQ+ organizations. They asked a Cole County judge to temporarily block the law as the court challenge against it plays out.

Lambda Legal attorney Nora Huppert in a statement said letting the law take effect “would deny adolescent transgender Missourians access to evidence-based treatment supported by the overwhelming medical consensus.”

“This law is not just harmful and cruel; it is life-threatening,” Huppert said.

Most adults will still have access to transgender health care under the law, but Medicaid won’t cover it and prisoners’ access to surgeries will be limited.

Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, who tried to ban minors’ access to gender-affirming health care through rule change but dropped the effort when the law passed, is responsible for defending the legislation in court.

“There are zero FDA approvals of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to treat gender dysphoria in children,” Bailey said in a statement. “We’re not going to let left-wing ideologues experiment on children here in the state of Missouri.”

The FDA approved puberty blockers 30 years ago to treat children with precocious puberty — a condition that causes sexual development to begin much earlier than usual. Sex hormones — synthetic forms of estrogen and testosterone — were approved decades ago to treat hormone disorders or as birth control pills.

The FDA has not approved the medications specifically to treat gender-questioning youth, but they have been used for many years for that purpose “off label,” a common and accepted practice for many medical conditions. Doctors who treat trans patients say those decades of use are proof the treatments are not experimental.”

Every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, has opposed the bans on gender-affirming care for minors and supported the medical care for youth when administered appropriately. Lawsuits have been filed in several states where bans have been enacted this year.

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