Missouri judge denies initial effort to halt bill banning gender-affirming care for minors

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A law banning transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming medication or surgery will go into effect Aug. 28 after a St. Louis judge denied a preliminary injunction. Minors who are already receiving care or started receiving care before Aug. 28 will not be affected.

Judge Steven Ohmer ruled Friday against a preliminary injunction that would block the enforcement of Senate Bill 49 after hearing witness testimonies for three days. Among those testifying was whistleblower Jamie Reed, a former case manager at the Washington University Pediatric Transgender Center.

Ohmer wrote that the plaintiffs’ arguments were “unpersuasive and not likely to succeed.”

“The science and medical evidence is conflicting and unclear. Accordingly, the evidence raises more questions than answers,” Ohmer wrote in his ruling. “As a result, it has not clearly been shown with sufficient possibility of success on the merits to justify the grant of a preliminary injunction.”

Ohmer also scheduled a status hearing in the case for Sept. 22.

"While we are disappointed in and disagree with the court’s ruling, we will not stop fighting to protect the rights of transgender people in Missouri," said the ACLU in a statement. "The case is not over and will go to a full trial on the merits."

More: Families, providers sue to block Missouri law banning gender-affirming care for minors

Attorney General Andrew Bailey called the ruling "a huge step."

"Missouri is the first state in the nation to successfully defend at the trial court level a law barring child mutilation. I’ve said from day one as Attorney General that I will fight to ensure that Missouri is the safest state in the nation for children. This is a huge step in that direction. What a day," Bailey said in a statement.

Gov. Mike Parson signed SB 49 into law on June 7. SB 49, which was sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon of Ash Grove, prevents health care providers from performing gender-affirmation surgery or administering gender-affirmation hormones or drugs to minors until Aug. 28, 2027. It also bars MO HealthNet, which is Missouri's Medicaid program, from providing payment for gender-affirming surgeries and hormones, and puberty-blocking drugs, as well as prohibiting access to gender-affirming surgeries for adults in prison.

There is an exception for current patients and those who began treatment before Aug. 28.

Three Missouri families, along with medical providers, requested a preliminary injunction July 26 to keep the law from going into effect.

A recent poll by St. Louis University found that 44% of 900 Missouri voters were in favor of providing certain gender transition medical care, like gender-affirming counseling, to younger people, while 44% were against it. When it came to hormone therapy or puberty-blocking medication, the majority of voters (63%) surveyed opposed access for minors; even more opposed gender-affirming surgery for minors (73%).

In a statement issued before the hearing, Moon reiterated his support of Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

“After hearing testimony and further researching these procedures, the General Assembly took what I believe are the proper and necessary steps to ensure the protection of children,” Moon said. “I am grateful for Attorney General Bailey’s efforts to defend the law and our children. We trust the court to weigh in on the side of protecting minors from any harm caused by pediatric transgender medical practices.”

Rep. Brad Hudson, Sen. Rick Brattin, Sen. Jill Carter, Sen. Bill Eigel, Sen. Karla Eslinger, Sen. Travis Fitzwater, Sen. Elaine Gannon, Sen. Denny Hoskins and Sen. Nick Schroer joined Moon in his support.

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, meanwhile, described the ruling as a blow to bodily autonomy for those in Missouri.

From May: Trans adults express 'temporary relief' following termination of AG's emergency rule banning health care restrictions

“On Monday, trans and gender-expansive young Missourians will have their rights stripped away — unless a higher court intervenes. They are terrified and furious that Missouri politicians are using ideology and junk science to deny them life-saving health care and erase their existence — and we are right alongside them. Politicians have no business probing around or dictating what care can be provided in our exam rooms," said Yamelsie Rodriguez, PPSLR, in a statement.

She added that PPSLR will work with patients to provide them care in Missouri or Illinois, where state law protects gender-affirming care.

Every major medical organization in the U.S., including the American Medical Association, has opposed 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.

In Missouri, physicians who violate the law face having their licenses revoked and being sued by patients. The law makes it easier for former patients to sue, giving them 15 years to go to court and promising at least $500,000 in damages if they succeed.

This story includes reporting from the Associated Press.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri ban on gender-affirming care for minors will start Monday