Florida bans treatment for gender dysphoria for children

Starting Thursday, Florida is banning treatment for gender dysphoria for children.

Gender dysphoria is the medical term for “a person who experiences discomfort or distress between their biological sex and gender identity.”

A Florida Board of Medicine rule that was first proposed last year officially goes into effect March 16.

It bans sex assignment surgeries and treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy for children under 18. Those who were already taking the treatment before Thursday are eligible to continue.

The ban comes as a bill related to transgender treatment passed a Florida legislative committee Monday.

The bill (SB 254) would make it a felony for doctors or other health care professionals to order puberty blockers, hormone treatment or surgery for transgender minors. It also prohibits state funds from being used to cover the care for adults.

The Senate proposal would codify into state law the recently approved rules by the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine preventing doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery for minors. The DeSantis administration asked the boards to sign off on the rules.

But the Senate proposal and a similar House bill go further than the rules. The Senate plan could lead to criminal charges for a person who “willfully or actively participates in a violation,” while the House measure would require that doctors who violate the prohibitions lose their licenses.

In addition, the state Agency for Health Care Administration last year approved a rule prohibiting Medicaid reimbursements for puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for transgender youths and adults. The rule is being challenged in federal court.

The Senate measure also would require hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to provide annual “attestation” that they do not provide gender-affirming care to minors or offer referrals for such services.

The bill is an “extreme overreach,” argued Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat who serves on the committee.

“We all want to protect kids. Let’s be very, very clear about one thing. I have spent my life protecting kids,” Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, said. “The parents and adults who are here with these children today want to protect kids. It may not look the way you think it should, but we all want to protect kids. … We have a responsibility to allow parents the right to protect their kids the way that they see fit.”

Dozens of transgender people, parents with transgender children and their supporters gathered in the Senate committee room Monday to speak against the bill. Opponents said it would lead to higher suicide rates, depression and anxiety and would cause far more harm than good.

“Criminalizing gender-affirming care is going to hurt my son, more than a puberty blocker will,” Judy Schmidt said.

Democratic lawmakers said their Republican colleagues are backing government intervention in private conversations families have with their doctors and stripping those families of their rights to care for their children.

Democratic Sen. Tracie Davis addressed her remarks to the people who testified against the bill.

“What we’ve done today with this legislation is vilify who you are,” Davis said. “There are children out there who believe they are better off dead because of the lack of support, and all you said today is say, ‘Love me as I am.’”

Republican Sen. Clay Yarborough said his bill is about protecting children, and told opponents he respects them.

“Every person was created with extraordinary worth, incredible value and a unique purpose from the time they were created. You can’t change that,” Yarborough said. “We need to let kids be kids, and our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibilities of parents while protecting children.”

There are 18 bills related to transgender care that have been filed for consideration for the current legislative session.

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