Transgender youth in Utah are now blocked from receiving gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy after Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill Saturday that largely bans such care for youth.
Cox said that the ban was necessary until more research was done on long-term effects of treatments, The New York Times reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Utah responded, saying the law violated due process and constitutional equal protection rights.
"This bill effectively bans access to lifesaving medical care for transgender youth in Utah," Brittney Nystrom, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. "It undermines the health and well-being of adolescents, limits the options of doctors, patients, and parents, and violates the constitutional rights of these families."
But Cox stood firm on the bill.
“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,” Cox, who is a Republican, said in a statement.
While leading medical groups have rejected the idea that gender-affirming care is harmful, a small number of medical professionals have cited concerns that puberty blockers may affect bone density, the Times reported.
The Utah bill is only the first of many expected this year.
More than 150 Republican-proposed bills in 25 states would restrict transgender rights, including more than 12 bills focusing on blocking transgender youth from surgical or hormonal care, according to the Times.
Kansas and Mississippi would ban gender-affirming care for anyone up to age 21. Bills in Oklahoma and South Carolina would go further, criminalizing gender-affirming care for transgender people under age 26, the Times reported.
Last year, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona and Tennessee restricted the access to gender-transition care for transgender youth, though federal judges in Arkansas and Alabama have blocked those laws during litigation.
Texas took a different tack, and classified gender-affirming health care as child abuse last year and authorized investigating families of transgender children seeking care, the Times reported. The governor and attorney general were later blocked by the state Supreme Court from ordering investigations, but only for families who had sued.
Cox had previously vetoed a bill that would have barred transgender students from participating in girls' sports, noting the high rates of suicide among transgender youth and the concerns from transgender advocates about mental health impacts, the Times reported. The Utah Legislature overrode his veto at that time.
The U.S. Office of Population Affairs has more on gender-affirming care.
SOURCE: The New York Times