OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill Tuesday targeting medical treatments for transgender youth and called on the GOP-controlled Legislature to impose a statewide ban when it returns in February.
The bill signed by the first-term Republican, who is up for reelection next month, authorizes more than $108 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for health services at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.
It prohibits any of the money from being used for gender reassignment medical treatment on children under 18 years old. Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health currently offers medical services related to gender identity for those up to age 24, including puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormone therapy, and help finding surgeons who perform gender-affirming surgeries, according to its website.
Stitt also called for the Legislature to ban some of those gender reassignment treatments statewide when it returns in February, saying in a statement that he wanted a prohibition on “all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies" on minors.
Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many Republican-led states, labeled as child abuse and subject to criminalizing bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
Oklahoma's action comes amid a spate of threats against doctors and institutions that provide medical care for transgender kids, with children's hospitals nationwide increasing security and working with law enforcement.
OU's Medical Center said in light of the legislation signed by Stitt, it had ceased hormone-related prescription therapies and surgical procedures for gender-affirming services on patients under 18 years old.
Civil rights groups denounced the governor and Legislature for the new law.
“Medical decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors," Tamya Cox-Toure, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said in a statement. “Yet politicians, attempting to appeal to their base during an election year, have continued their attacks on bodily autonomy by coming between those directly impacted and the care they need and deserve.”
Oklahoma's Legislature already targeted transgender young people earlier this year with new laws that restrict their ability to play sports or use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.