Utah has become the first state in 2023 to ban experimental sex changes for minors, with Republican Governor Spencer Cox signing a bill that will prohibit doctors from providing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, or sex change surgeries to anyone under 18 years of age.
The bill cites the lack of good quality evidence available for so-called "gender-affirming" care, and Gov. Cox said in a statement that such a ban was necessary until more research could be done into the safety and effectiveness of the treatments.
"Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation," said Cox. "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."
The bill calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a systematic review of the evidence for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex change surgeries such as bilateral mastectomies for minors.
Sweden, Finland, and England have so far undertaken such reviews, and each nation found the evidence for child sex changes to be of very low quality. Sweden and Finland have already abandoned the affirmative model of care and reverted back to treating children who say they are transgender with psychotherapy. England is expected to follow suit in the coming months on completion of the independent review of its gender services.
"While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures," concluded Cox.
The bill will also increase the statute of limitations meaning those who come to regret their decision later in life will be able to sue the doctors who allowed them to consent while they were still in a period of identity development. Research shows that detransition takes on average 4 to 8 years, meaning many young people are unable to bring malpractice lawsuits against the doctors who harmed them because a typical limitation period is just two years.
Minors who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the bill comes into effect in May 2023 will still be able to access hormone therapies if they meet the diagnostic criteria set out in the bill. However, under the new law, clinicians providing hormone treatment to minors deemed eligible will have to complete "at least 40 hours of education related to transgender health care for minors from an approved organization." Providing care without first obtaining the necessary certificate will be considered 'unprofessional conduct."Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Tennessee have all passed similar bills restricting access to experimental sex changes, and more than twenty bills have been introduced so far in 2023 aimed at preventing children from becoming the victims of what one pediatric neurosurgeon recently called "an extraordinary medical atrocity."
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