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Oklahoma Hospital Ends Gender-Affirming Care for Youth Due to Law

Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma University Medical Center

A new law signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt withholds federal funds from the University of Oklahoma Medical Center unless it ceases providing such care.

Oklahoma has blocked the provision of gender-affirming care for young people at a major university hospital, and Gov. Kevin Stitt is calling for a ban on all such care in the state.

Stitt, a Republican who is up for reelection next month, signed Senate Bill 3 into law Tuesday. It makes federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act available to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center and its Children's Hospital only if they cease providing gender-affirming medications or surgeries to people under 18.

"By signing this bill today we are taking the first step to protect children from permanent gender transition surgeries and therapies," Stitt said in a press release. "It is wildly inappropriate for taxpayer dollars to be used for condoning, promoting, or performing these types of controversial procedures on healthy children."

"I am calling for the Legislature to ban all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors when they convene next session in February 2023," he added. "We cannot turn a blind eye to what's happening all across our nation, and as governor I will not allow life-altering transition surgeries on minor children in the state of Oklahoma."

In reality, these procedures are not controversial, except among right-wing politicians. Major medical associations endorse puberty blockers and hormone therapy for transgender youth; the effects of puberty blockers are reversible, hormones largely so. Doctors do not recommend genital surgery for minors, although some undergo top surgery.

Because of the legislation, the university hospital will cease providing gender-affirming care to minors so it can receive the rest of the funding. Its parent organization, OU Health, released a statement on Twitter.

Several states have taken steps against gender-affirming care for young people. Alabama and Arkansas have both passed laws to stop it, but enforcement of these laws is on hold while court actions against them proceed. Texas officials have ordered that parents be investigated for child abuse if they allow their minor children to receive this care, but many of these investigations are blocked while lawsuits are heard as well.

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