Florida Bans Transgender Health Treatments for Minors

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Transgender children in Florida will be banned from receiving hormones or undergoing surgery to treat gender dysphoria under a rule approved Friday by state medical officials on demand of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Florida Board of Medicine and the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted at a joint meeting in Lake Buena Vista to finalize rules governing gender-affirming health care for minors. The rule is expected to come into effect after a one-week public comment period.

The ban comes as DeSantis and Republicans in other states attempt to limit access to treatments for minors, often labeling them medically unproven and potentially dangerous in the long run, as another political battle against liberal ideologies.

Many doctors, mental health experts and medical groups have argued that treatments for transgender youth are safe and beneficial, although rigorous long-term research is lacking. Federal health officials have described gender-affirming care as essential to the health and well-being of transgender children and adolescents.

DeSantis has made criticism of such treatment for minors a routine part of his re-election campaign, often referring to the proceedings in graphic terms at rallies and speeches. The new policy, finalized days before the election, marks another example of DeSantis’ ability to leverage the power of government to achieve controversial political goals, bolstering his national reputation as a combative GOP culture warrior.

The rule prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty-blocking, hormone and hormone antagonist treatments to treat gender dysphoria in minors. It prohibits sex reassignment surgeries or other surgical procedures that alter primary or secondary sex characteristics in minors.

“Today’s vote by the Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine will protect our children from irreversible surgeries and highly experimental treatments. I appreciate the integrity of the boards for ruling in the best interests of children in Florida despite enormous pressure to allow these unproven and risky treatments. Children deserve to learn how to navigate this world without harmful pressure, and Florida will continue to fight for children to be children,” Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said in a statement.

Florida health officials this year banned state Medicaid insurance coverage for gender dysphoria treatments and released a report saying the treatments have not been shown to be safe or effective. After the report was released, Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee, called for new rules regarding the treatments.

Florida has also clashed with federal health officials advocating providing the treatments to young people.

Gender-affirming health care for young people has been a target for Republicans in recent years. Last year, the American Medical Association issued a letter urging governors to block any legislation banning the treatment, calling such action “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine”.

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban on gender-affirming care, with Republican lawmakers in 2021 overriding GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the legislation. Republicans in Alabama this year approved legislation to ban gender-affirming drugs for transgender youth. Both laws have been suspended amid ongoing legal battles.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, last month signed a bill to prohibit federal funds intended for the University of Oklahoma Medical Center from being used for sex reassignment treatments for minors. Stitt also called on the legislature to ban some of these sex reassignment treatments statewide when he returns in February.

Tennessee’s top Republicans have also pledged to push for tough anti-transgender policies. The state already prohibits doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy to prepubescent minors. To date, no one has legally challenged the law, as medical experts say no doctors in Tennessee do.

In Florida, DeSantis signed a law last year banning transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams for student-athletes identified as female at birth.