Florida lawmakers send bill blocking gender-affirming care for minors to DeSantis

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Florida legislators Thursday passed legislation to prevent doctors from administering gender-affirming health care to transgender youths and adults, sending the measure to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law.

The GOP-controlled Florida House voted 83-28 Thursday to pass Senate Bill 254, banning transgender minors from accessing puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgery. Transgender adults under the measure will be required to clear several additional regulatory hurdles to receive gender-affirming health care in the state.

The state Senate, also held by Republicans, approved the bill in a 27-12 vote last month. It will take effect immediately after it is signed by DeSantis, who has backed the legislation.

Florida under the DeSantis administration has already adopted a policy prohibiting transgender minors from accessing gender-affirming health care, and a state health department rule adopted in August prohibits transgender Floridians, regardless of age, from using Medicaid to help pay for gender-affirming treatments.

In March, Florida Sen. Clay Yarborough (R), the bill’s sponsor, said he introduced the measure to protect children from a “radical, prurient agenda” that targets young kids.

Yarborough’s bill, if signed by DeSantis, would additionally grant a Florida court temporary emergency jurisdiction over a child that “has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.”

Obtaining a warrant to take physical custody of a child, as in other cases of child abuse or neglect, will require a party to prove that a child is likely to be removed from the state or is in immediate danger of suffering serious physical harm. Under the legislature’s proposal, “Serious physical harm includes, but is not limited to, being subjected to sex-reassignment prescriptions or procedures.”

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Opponents of the measure have warned the bill could be used to legally “kidnap” transgender children in Florida. Parents of transgender youths during legislative hearings this session argued the measure, if signed into law, would infringe on their fundamental rights as parents to make decisions concerning the care and custody of their children.

“It’s an assault on medical freedom and the freedom to parent,” Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, said Thursday after the legislature voted to pass the bill.

Senate Bill 254 would additionally bar government entities, public universities and Florida’s group health insurance program from using state funds to cover gender-affirming health care.

The legislation tasks the state’s medical boards with establishing rules for how transgender youths who are already receiving gender-affirming health care may continue to receive care once the measure takes effect.

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