Utah lawmakers approve ban on transgender treatments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah lawmakers on Friday gave final approval for a measure that would ban most transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming health care like surgery or puberty blockers.

The bill now goes to the desk of Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, who hasn’t yet publicly taken a position on the legislation.

It comes as legislators in at least 18 states consider similar bills targeting health care for young transgender people. Montana lawmakers discussed a measure there Friday.

The bills have drawn strong opposition from critics who say it is irresponsible to meddle in important decisions that should be left to parents and their children.

Utah’s measure prohibits transgender surgery for youth and disallows hormone treatments for minors who have not yet been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The state’s Legislature made the topic a top priority, hearing the first draft just two days after the session started earlier this month.

Supporters in Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature argued that the measure is necessary because of the life-altering impacts of the treatments. They have also questioned if there’s enough scientific study about such treatments.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health issued guidance this year eliminating age minimums for providing gender-affirming health care for transgender adolescents. It encourages an individualized approach in determining when hormone therapy and surgery can take place.

Utah state Sen. Mike Kennedy, a Republican family doctor sponsoring Utah’s proposal, has said government oversight is necessary for vital health care policy related to gender and youth.

Senate minority leader Luz Escamilla, a Democrat from Salt Lake City, was emotional when she voted against the bill, which she said could cause harm to families, KUTV reported.

“We see you and we love your beautiful children,” Escamilla said. “We will continue to work … for good public policy and try to mitigate impact into their lives, and this is just the beginning of a process.”

Cox declined comment Friday through spokeswoman Emma Williams. Cox has previously indicated he agrees with the notion that transgender youth probably shouldn’t decide about surgery until they’re adults and that he had some concerns about puberty blockers but was still researching that issue.

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