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Utah politicians are chipping away at gender-affirming care for transgender youth


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A rainbow flag waves in the air in front a Mormon temple.

The Utah Senate voted to approve SB 16, a bill amending current state law to ban gender-affirming surgeries for transgender youth and halt access to forms of hormonal therapy. The state would be the first to do so in 2023, should the bill be signed into law, continuing a year of continued assault against transgender rights.

Despite overwhelming medical evidence that access to gender-affirming procedures is a life-saving resource, state politicians are still debating the efficacy of such health services — it's a not-so-subtle attack on trans acceptance and an extension of nationwide attacks on bodily autonomy.

Utah governor Spencer Cox told local press that he didn't have any plans to veto the legislation if it came across his desk, even though he had decried similar legislative moves in the past and was one of two republican legislators to veto a 2022 bill barring young trans athletes from competing in girls' sports. State senator Daniel Thatcher did speak out against a previous version of the bill, however, noting that "every credible medical organization on the planet says that that is the safest, best, and most appropriate care to save those lives.” 

Earlier this month, the Utah Senate also passed SB 93, a bill barring government officials from issuing gender-amended birth certificates for minors.

With SB 16, these specific forms of surgical and hormonal care are banned only for transgender youth. The provisions would apply to minors who receive a professional medical diagnosis after the bill's effective date of May 3, 2023. Young people diagnosed prior to that date may still be able to receive gender-affirming care if they meet a list of requirements established by the state, and legislators provide exemptions for minors who are intersex, have experienced early puberty, and are deemed to need treatment for “medically necessary” reasons.

In 2021, Arkansas became the first state to pass a ban on health care for transgender youth, followed by similar legislative moves by more than 20 other states. In 2023, some states have moved to extend their already restrictive laws to non-minor patients, as well. Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia introduced bills that would ban state healthcare providers from treating patients under 21. A second Oklahoma bill, known as the Millstone Act, proposes a ban on gender-affirming care for anyone under 26 years of age — the most restrictive yet.

Nationwide, activists, allies, and other progressive state legislatures are working to codify LGBTQ protections and provide life-saving resources to those most at risk. In the meantime, transgender and gender non-conforming youth must navigate these legislative invasions of their privacy, in an increasingly fraught political environment.

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