Bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors weighed in Senate committee

February 17, 2023


Missouri News Network

Lawmakers at a Tuesday hearing weighed legislation that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment and surgery to minors.

Witnesses were twice reminded by Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla, the chairman of the committee: “We’re not gonna do this... I am not going to tolerate disrespect to any committee member regardless of what side you’re on.”

His warning was issued before a man, who is transgender, testified in favor of the bill and became upset. He was eventually removed from the committee room for repeatedly exclaiming “Shame on you!” despite warnings from Brown.

The three Senate bills heard by the Emerging Issues Committee would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth, and they appear to be part of Missouri Republicans’ continued focus on transgender people.

Already this session, bills aiming to ban transgender students from participating in a gender-specific sports team and to ban transgender people from altering their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity have been heard.

Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s investigation into a former employee’s accusations against a Missouri transgender center seemed to embolden testimony decrying youth gender transition.

Jamie Reed, a former case manager at the Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, alleged in an affidavit that the center engaged in malpractice, such as over-prescribing treatment without adequate screening for mental health issues and downplaying the potentially dangerous side effects of the medication. Bailey’s office announced Feb. 8 that it had been investigating the claims for two weeks.

Sponsors of versions of the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act — Senate bills 49, 164 and 236 — spoke gravely.

Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, characterized the center as “a conveyor (belt) of child destruction” operated by “evildoers.”

Three people who said they underwent transition during their youth testified in favor of prohibitions. Luka Hein, who detransitioned, said in an interview that she wants to see kids get the chance to grow up.

“I felt a need to escape my body as a result of my poor mental health at the time,” Hein said. “I can’t really take back a lot of what happened to me — I care about kids. I work with kids.”

Members of the opposition, however, did not accept the premise that denying children treatment is helpful.

One 18-year-old who is transgender testified that access to medical care was essential to their safety.

Brandon Barthel, a doctor at the University Health LGBTQ Specialty Clinic, testified that he has worked with adults to complete gender transitions. He said he often inherits people that would be impacted by the bill “if they turn 18,” alluding to the possibility of suicide.

Barthel said surgery is a rare path taken by youth and that the standard of care is rigorous and personalized. Barthel said puberty blockers prevent the worsening of gender dysphoria that comes alongside unwanted development, giving the child and parents time to consider the best path forward.

Barthel clarified that if what Jamie Reed alleged was found to be true, the practices at the center would be a violation of current standards.

His testimony was the longest of any others, and he said that these decisions ought to be left to the minor, their parents and experts.