Utah Limits Access to Gender-Affirming Care For Transgender Youth

New legislation from Utah bans access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth, becoming the first U.S. state to do so this year.

Key takeaways:

On January 28, Governor Spencer Cox (UT-R) signed SB16 titled Transgender Medical Treatment and Procedures. The new bill was sponsored by Republican Senator Michael Kennedy and Representative Katy Hall.

The legislation limits access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth and access to those who have not received certain diagnoses listed by the State of Utah.

What is the ban?

Earlier this year, the Utah House Health and Human Services Standing Committee struck down HB132, a more severe ban against gender sex reassignment surgeries and gender-affirming care for transgender minors.

Instead, Utah legislators pursued the passage of SB16, which prohibits health care providers from providing hormonal transgender treatments to minors and those not diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the effective date of SB16.

The Department of Health and Human Services is conducting a review of medical evidence regarding hormonal transgender treatments. The review will evaluate hormonal transgender treatments prescribed to minors with gender dysphoria. Also, it will include evidence assessing the long-term effects of gender-affirming care on minors.

As of January 24, 2023, hormonal transgender treatment to a minor without a transgender treatment certification is unprofessional conduct. Health care providers are only allowed to use gender-affirming care treatments for minors if they have undergone gender dysphoria treatments for six months.

This July, health care providers must undergo certain procedures before providing hormonal transgender treatment to minors.

These procedures include:

  • Determine if the minor has other physical or mental health conditions, identify and document any condition, and consider whether treating those conditions before treating the gender dysphoria would provide the minor the best long-term outcome.
  • Consider whether an alternative medical treatment or behavioral intervention to treat the minor's gender dysphoria would provide the minor the best long-term outcome.

What is gender-affirming care?

According to the U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), gender-affirming care included a variety of services including medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary individuals.

The amount of transgender youth in the U.S. is currently higher than ever before. Data from the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute find nearly one in five teenagers ages 13 to 17 are transgender. Currently, 300,000 youth identify as transgender.

The OASH says gender-affirming care helps minors in social transitions increase in confidence while improving overall health for transgender and nonbinary children. The key to gender-affirming care is fitting the patients' needs, something the new Utah legislation hits back at for minors.

Governor Cox issued a statement praising SB16 after signing the bill into law.

Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue. More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.

— Gov. (UT-R) Spencer Cox

Multiple organizations condemned the new law from Governor Cox, including the ALCU of Utah and the Human Rights Campaign.

The ACLU of Utah issued a letter to Governor Cox to veto SB16 prior to its signing into law. Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, exclaims the new bill is threatening to trans youth.

"This is a devastating and dangerous violation of the rights and privacy of transgender Utahns, their families, and their medical providers," Strangio said in an ALCU of Utah press release. "Claims of protecting our most vulnerable with these laws ring hollow when lawmakers have trans children’s greatest protectors – their parents, providers, and the youth themselves – pleading in front of them not to cut them off from their care."

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