Missouri representatives debate to ban gender-affirming care for minors

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Just months after the state started restricting transgender minors from gender-affirming care, some lawmakers want the policy to go even farther. 

It was the headline of the legislative session last year and now the topic is up for debate once again. This time, it’s to remove the grandfather clause and the expiration date for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. The business community said this ongoing discussion is preventing companies and people from coming to Missouri. 

“Here we are, year after year, targeting this handful of people and it’s a small, small percentage of our population with legislation like this and it’s just frustrating,” lobbyist Shannon Cooper, representing Kansas City and the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said. “Legislation like this is part of the reason for a segment of individuals; they don’t want to be a citizen of a state that is not welcoming.”

It has been a controversial issue to permanently ban gender-affirming care for minors. 

“There never should have been a sunset on it to begin with and I think it needs to be removed,” Rep. Brad Hudson, R-Cape Fair, said. 

The proposed legislation would amend a law that went into effect in August, prohibiting doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatments to minors but there was an exception that allowed current patients to continue with treatment once the law went into effect.

“I feel for not only my Democratic colleagues but my Republican colleagues because they’re trying to move legislation, but this is dominating the airspace,” David Tyson Smith, D-Columbia, said. “For this to dominate the air waves over and over again, it’s too much. It’s time to stop it because that’s not what the people want.”

Less than five months after the law took effect, Hudson wants to remove the exception. House Bill 1520 would eliminate a part of the law allowing those already receiving treatment to continue. 

“I have heard no good reason given for why we should make these drugs legal again in four years for kids to get sex changes; I’ve not heard one,” Hudson said. “We recognize in society that children under the age of 18 should not be exposed to certain activities, certain substances, because they haven’t cognitively developed in order to fully grasp the long-term effects that these substances are going to have on them.”

Another provision in his bill would throw out the expiration date on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Under the law, the ban is set to expire in 2027. 

“We made a commitment to those individuals who are in treatment, who were in treatment at that time, that they would be allowed to continue that treatment,” Cooper said. “Whether you agree or not with that, that was a promise made.”

Jamie Reed, the whistleblower who previously worked at the Washington University Pediatric Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, testified in favor of the legislation. 

“In my four years of tenure there, I saw many children receive so-called gender-affirming care that led to significant harm and poor outcomes,” Reed said. “Since your passage of the SAFE Act, it’s becoming increasing clear that young people are being harmed by these interventions.”

Those in opposition said it’s time for Missouri lawmakers to leave the LGBTQ community alone. 

“Please channel your energy, your power and your concern into different, more pressing matters other than what I do with my body to make me happy,” Kirkwood resident Andrew Rodriguez Damsgaard said. “I know that medical care like hormones or puberty blockers are life changing but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

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Rodriguez Damsgaard, 17, testified before the House Emerging Issues Committee and said lawmakers could learn a thing or two from his parents, who have supported him on his journey as a transgender teen. 

“Every day I become more comfortable in my own skin, and I want that freedom for other kids too,” Rodriguez Damsgaard said. “I want other trans boys to love their voice, to shave their face, and to have access to the medical care that blesses them with new motivation for life. Is that so terrible?”

During the nearly nine-hour hearing, members heard another bill from Hudson that would prevent doctors and health care providers from being sued for refusing to provide gender-affirming care to patients. Other bills heard would require people to use the restroom matching their biological sex. 

The committee did not vote on any of the legislation on Wednesday. 


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