Transgender healthcare becomes target for broad GOP-led rollback
In May, Alabama had the toughest anti-transgender law in the US for about a week. Any doctor who prescribes puberty blockers or hormone therapy for anyone under 18 can face a felony charge, serve up to 10 years in prison, and pay a $15,000 fine. Physicians scrambled to refill their patients’ prescriptions before the law went into effect; Parents began to consider plans to move their families abroad.
A federal judge has since issued an injunction banning the drug. But it was a brief preview of what conservative lawmakers across the country are increasingly pushing for. An analysis by Bloomberg News found at least 40 similar bills being proposed in around two dozen Republican-controlled states that would severely restrict or outright ban gender-affirming and transitional healthcare, often specifically for minors.
A draft law in Georgia would sentence any doctor who prescribes puberty blockers to a minor to up to 10 years in prison; Another in North Carolina would fine doctors $1,000 per incident for doing the same. In Mississippi, a bill would limit health insurance coverage for transgender health services.
“We’re seeing a tsunami of these laws,” said Michael Bronski, a Harvard University professor who studies LGBTQ history and culture.
“They throw everything at the wall to see what sticks,” Bronski said.
“Part of the goal is getting rid of foster care, but getting rid of trans people is just one of the stops along the way,” said Chase Strangio, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has done so
Strangio has had some success in convincing judges that these laws are not legal, at least for now. In Arkansas, he obtained a drug ban injunction similar to that in Alabama, and in Texas he received another injunction by order of the governor directing state agencies to investigate parents or physicians who provide gender-affirming care to minors.
The judge who eventually blocked the Alabama law said, “Parents — not the state or federal courts — play the primary role in raising and caring for their children.” He also said the state had failed to provide credible evidence that the Treatments are “experimental” and therefore dangerous, as politicians in Alabama have argued. The American Academy of Pediatrics and nearly two dozen other major medical associations support the treatments that clinics offer to transgender youth.
Conservative groups believe both the public and healthcare will return to their positions. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re going to get to a point where this will be seen as a totally inappropriate way of intervening,” said Jay Richards, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank working on providing model laws for legislators on the subject.
Proponents say extremism is part of the strategy. “Each of these calculations is a test,” said Nikita Shepard, a researcher at Columbia University who studies gender and sexuality. “How far can it go? How far can rhetoric go?”
They liken it to the anti-abortion crusade that ultimately led to the overthrow of Roe v. Wade led. State legislatures for more than a decade
Physicians who see transgender patients fear their future leads there, said Kellen Baker, executive director of the Whitman-Walker Institute, an LGBTQ health research and advocacy group. “We see a lot of confusion, a lot of fear and a lot of fear,” he said.
Clinics are also reporting an increase in violence and harassment. Last month, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital, home of the nation’s first transgender pediatric and adolescent health program, were the target of a campaign of harassment; The hospital also received a bomb threat a few weeks later.
Despite the legal hurdles they have faced so far, the laws are not expected to ease up.
Promise to America’s Children, an anti-LGBTQ advocacy group, is asking lawmakers to sign a pledge supporting measures that ban “physical interventions on children’s bodies” such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The coalition is supported by the Heritage Foundation, the Family Policy Alliance and the Alliance Defending Freedom, conservative groups that have also been instrumental in the fight against abortion. The group will offer model legislation and awareness campaigns, Richards said.
“We are dealing with a fundamental disagreement: Can children be born in the wrong body and should their bodies be altered to match an assumed inner state, or should we try to help children feel comfortable in their bodies ?” said Richards of the Heritage Foundation. “There’s a chasm between these two different views of reality and we think one is right and one is wrong.”
To contact the authors of this story:
To contact the publisher responsible for this story:
© 2022 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.