Utah bans gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors

Utah has banned gender-affirming care for transgender children in the state.

Gov Spencer Cox signed the ban into law on Saturday, making Utah the latest Republican-run state to take aim at gender-affirming care for children amid a broader wave of anti-transgender legislation around the country.

Utah’s bill, SB16, prohibits physicians from performing surgical procedures on children seeking to transition and also bans hormone therapy for all children who have not already been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and were not already recieving care.

Mr Cox won praise from medical professionals and advocates for gender-affirming public policy last year when he vetoed a bill banning transgender children from competing in sports teams consistent with their gender identity, but decided to sign the ban on gender-affirming care under the guise that it is wise to stop gender-affirming care “until more and better research can help determine the long term consequences.”

“While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures,” the governor said in a statement.

That position puts Mr Cox at odds with an array of established medical professionals like those at the American Medical Association, which has repeatedly said that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and can radically improve the health of people who recieve it.

The Utah law will likely be challenged on legal grounds. The ACLU of Utah, an opponent of the legislation, wrote to Mr Cox last week before he ultimately signed the bill that it “is riddled with constitutional issues.”

“It violates the equal protection rights of transgender adolescents and the due process rights of their parents,” the ACLU letter reads. “This bill clearly discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status. The bill also infringes upon the substantive due process rights of parents to direct the care, custody, and control of their minor children, which includes the right to follow medical guidelines for treatment.”

The ACLU letter also outlines in no uncertain terms the medical effect of the law.

“This bill bans access to life-saving medical care,” the letter reads. “By cutting off medical treatment supported by every major medical association in the United States, the bill compromises the health and well-being of adolescents with gender dysphoria. It ties the hands of doctors and parents by restricting access to the only evidence-based treatment available for this serious medical condition and impedes their ability to fulfill their professional obligations.”

The law went into effect immediately after Mr Cox signed it. According to the Associated Press, at least 18 other states are considering similar bills this year.