Utah becomes first state to ban gender-affirming youth care in 2023

Illustration: Ali Karl/Axios

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed a controversial bill Saturday that would ban gender-affirming health care and hormone therapy for transgender children.

The big picture: The move follows similar legislation passed in other GOP-led states amid a a larger wave of anti-trans billsmany of which target the youth.

details: SB16introduced by state Sen. Michael Kennedy (R-Alpine), a family physician, would ban sex-reassignment surgeries and puberty blockers for transgender minors.

  • The bill is more restrictive than the one Kennedy first introduced in the Senate last week. Initial bill included moratorium on puberty blockers.
  • On Friday, Kennedy said there was a strong possibility the bill would face a legal challenge.
  • “I’m afraid I’ll be working on this for the rest of my political life,” he said on the Senate floor before it was passed.

Meanwhile, The state legislature is also considering other bills aimed at the rights of transgender youth, such as a bill that would ban minors change the gender on their birth certificates.

What are they saying: “While the bill is not perfect, we are grateful for Senator Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue,” Cox said in a statement after the bill was signed.

  • “More and more experts, states and countries around the world are stopping these permanent and life-changing treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”
  • “We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources for organizations working to help this important Utah community,” he added.

Yes, but: Renowned medical associations such as American Medical Associationhave warned of the negative mental health effects such restrictions would have on transgender youth who are more likely to experience increased risk for suicide.

  • A January 2022 survey by the Trevor Project found that over two-thirds of LGBTQ youth say recent debates over state laws targeting trans people are harm their mental health.

  • “We see you and we love your beautiful children,” Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake City) said as she fought back tears as she explained she was not voting.
  • In a letter released Friday, ACLU of Utah Executive Director Brittney Nystrom said the bill is “riddled with numerous constitutional problems” and urged Cox to veto it.

It is worth noting: The bill comes nearly a year after the state legislature passed a law barring transgender girls from competing on school sports teams that match their gender identity.

The big picture: At the start of the 2023 state legislative sessions, lawmakers introduced more than two dozen accounts targeting transgender health care.

  • The Ministry of Justice warned that blocking access to treatment may violate “federal constitutional and statutory provisions that protect transgender youth from discrimination.”
  • DOJ later sued Alabama over its ban that criminalizes certain types of gender-affirming care for trans youth.

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