By Devan Cole
(CNN) -- A coalition of 16 Democratic attorneys general criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his administration's request to public colleges in the state for information about students receiving gender-affirming care, saying it intimidates physicians and could have a chilling effect on students seeking the care.
The coalition, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, said in a letter sent on Friday to DeSantis, a Republican, that they have an "interest in protecting the rights and medical decisions of the many students and staff members in the Florida state university system who are citizens of our states."
"The information request you have issued threatens to undermine the private medical decisions made by transgender individuals together with their families and health care providers and risks the lives and welfare of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities," the letter says.
It's unclear why DeSantis' administration is seeking this information. CNN has reached out to DeSantis' office for comment on the letter.
Gender-affirming care -- particularly for trans youth -- has recently come under assault by conservatives, with several GOP-led states moving to restrict it for minors over the last few years. LGBTQ advocates and their supporters have said that targeting the care could have dire consequences for a vulnerable group that suffers from uniquely high rates of suicide.
The attorneys general charged that the request "may be intended to intimidate, and will actually intimidate, university administrators and health care providers and chill vulnerable students, including the students or staff in Florida's state university system who are citizens of our states, from accessing necessary medical care."
In January, Florida Office of Policy and Budget director Chris Spencer sent a memo to all public colleges in the state that said the agency "has learned that several state universities provide services to persons suffering from gender dysphoria."
The memo included a four-page survey containing the various pieces of information the office wanted about the students seeking gender-affirming care, including "the number of encounters for sex-reassignment treatment or where such treatment was sought."
Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender -- the one the person was designated at birth -- to their affirmed gender -- the gender by which one wants to be known.
Though the care is highly individualized, some people may decide to use reversible puberty suppression therapy. This part of the process may also include hormone therapy that can lead to gender-affirming physical change. And some people may seek surgical interventions.
Major medical associations agree that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria, which, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is psychological distress that may result when a person's gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not align.
The Florida memo asked that the schools provide information about "the number of individuals" -- including their age -- who were prescribed puberty blockers, hormones and underwent medical procedures as part of their care.
The attorneys general urged the governor to rescind his request to the colleges, though the memo from the state agency said that the information should be returned to the state by February 10.
Under DeSantis, Florida has taken other steps to restrict gender-affirming care, with its Department of Health releasing new guidance last year that advises against any such care for children and adolescents.
DeSantis also faced intense scrutiny last year for signing a measure that bans certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.
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