Missouri has become the latest state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors and to bar trans student athletes from competing under their gender identity.
Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed Senate Bill 49, the gender-affirming care ban, and Senate Bill 39, the sports bill, into law Wednesday. He did so privately in his office and without a ceremony because “the issue is divisive to some,” he told a group of reporters, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The ban on gender-affirming care takes effect August 28. It prohibits hormone treatment, puberty blockers, and gender-confirmation surgeries for the purpose of gender transition for people under 18. Those already on hormones or puberty blockers will be able to stay on them, however.
But the legislation also will keep some adults from receiving the care. The state’s Medicaid program will not cover the treatment, and incarcerated people will not have access to gender-affirming surgery.
Parson said he did not speak with any families whose members might be affected, the Post-Dispatch reports. “We support everyone’s right to his or her own pursuit of happiness; however, we must protect children from making life-altering decisions that they could come to regret in adulthood once they have physically and emotionally matured,” he told reporters. In fact, transition regret is extremely rare.
He also tweeted that the legislation will protect children “from potentially harmful experimental surgeries and treatment,” although the procedures are not experimental but are endorsed by every major medical association. Moreover, genital surgery is almost never performed on minors.
When lawmakers passed the bill last month and sent it to the governor, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey withdrew an emergency rule he had issued to severely restrict gender-affirming care. He said his rule was a stopgap measure until the legislature acted. But his measure had been blocked by a St. Louis County judge while a lawsuit against it proceeded.
The law on transgender sports participation covers both public and private schools, and colleges and universities as well as K-12 schools. It states that student athletes must compete under the gender listed on their birth certificate. Schools that violate it would lose state funds and could face civil suits.
Missouri is now the 20th state to ban some or all gender-affirming health care for minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project’s count, and the 22nd to restrict trans participation in school sports.
LGBTQ+ rights groups condemned the state’s action. “Governor Parson showed just how little Missouri’s state government values LGBTQ+ lives and, in particular, transgender and gender-expansive youth,” said a statement from Shira Berkowitz, senior director of public policy and advocacy at PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBTQ+ organization. The group promised to work “to collectively stop anti-trans legislation and attacks in Missouri.”
“The anti-trans legislation Governor Parson penned into law will be devastating for trans people of all ages,” said a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Missouri affiliate. “While the government pushed this deceitful bill behind the guise of protecting children, buried within the law is a ban on health care for adults based on the amount of money they earn or whether they are incarcerated.”
On the sports bill, the ACLU of Missouri added, “In alarming fashion, legislators took extraordinary efforts to target and prevent eight students statewide from playing sports in SB 39, while choosing to not solve issues that would benefit all Missouri students such as Missouri’s teacher shortage.” The organization “will continue to explore all options to fight these bans and to expand the rights of trans Missourians,” it continued.
Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, offered this comment: “To our trans family and friends during Pride Month and every month, know that you deserve to live and be a part of the community as your full and authentic selves. Access to high-quality and compassionate care and the right to bodily autonomy should not be up for debate by politicians in this state. We have urged the governor and legislature repeatedly to listen to providers, patients, and their families, but instead, they have put politics over live-saving health care. We join with the LGTBQ+ community across Missouri to fight these transphobic attacks, because trans youth and their families — not politicians — deserve to make their own health care decisions.”
“These bills represent a two-pronged approach to targeting trans youth and eliminating their stories, their perspectives, and their right to a happy, healthy childhood,” Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a press release. “SB 49 tosses aside decades of scientific research and guidance from every major medical and mental health organization, representing over 1.3 million American doctors, in favor of the discriminatory whims of politicians in Jefferson City. Every kid in Missouri deserves a life that’s safe, stable, and offers them the opportunity to flourish — and banning gender-affirming care is antithetical to that goal. By banning this medically necessary care, out-of-touch politicians have prevented parents from doing right by their kids and creating the conditions for them to thrive. We will continue to fight for transgender kids and their ability to access best-practice, age-appropriate health care.
“By denying students the freedom to participate in school sports in signing SB 39, Governor Parson is denying kids the camaraderie, comfort, and transferable lessons that come from youth sports. Jefferson City has consistently shown that their priorities as a state government are to bully transgender kids rather than ensuring every kid in Missouri is safe, cared for, and supported at their schools. We reject this legislation, acknowledge the harm that it will cause, and will continue fighting tooth and nail against this law and others like it."