Utah bans sex-change surgeries on kids, creates new requirements to prescribe hormone drugs

A female patient wearing a hospital gown sits in front of a healthcare provider.
A female patient wearing a hospital gown sits in front of a healthcare provider. | Getty Images

Utah's Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill Saturday banning doctors from performing sex change surgeries on minors and creating new requirements for doctors to prescribe hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones to children with gender dysphoria.

Cox, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Kennedy, one day after it was sent to his desk by the Utah legislature. It will go into effect on July 1. 

The bill prohibits healthcare providers from prescribing hormone therapies to new patients who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria before a certain time period and mandates that providers meet certain requirements.

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Under the legislation, practitioners are prohibited from performing sex-change surgeries on minors. Individuals may also bring a malpractice lawsuit against providers for treatment they underwent as a minor if they no longer consent to the sex change.

The bill comes amid concerns about the long-term impact of such interventions and as more detransitioners claim publicly that they grew to regret the surgeries they received as teens as they got older. 

The bill requires the state's Department of Health and Services to review "medical evidence regarding hormonal transgender treatments and provide recommendations to the legislature." The Division of Professional Licensing must also create a certification for providers looking to prescribe hormone therapies. 

Cox said in a Saturday statement that "[m]ore 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 governor added, "[l]egislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation." The governor acknowledged that the bill is not "perfect," but he expressed gratitude for Sen. Kennedy's "more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue."

"We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources to organizations that work to help this important Utah community," Cox said. 

"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."

Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned the bill in a Sunday statement, calling it "a devastating and dangerous violation of the rights and privacy of transgender Utahns, their families, and their medical providers." 

"Claims of protecting our most vulnerable with these laws ring hollow when lawmakers have trans children's greatest protectors — their parents, providers, and the youth themselves — pleading in front of them not to cut them off from their care," the ACLU deputy director stated.

Strangio said the ACLU would not stop fighting to defend trans individuals in Utah "until each and every one of you can access the care you need."

The ACLU of Utah previously called on Cox to veto the legislation, which it contends "violates the constitutional rights" of families with minors who identify as the opposite gender, among other objections. 

Terry Schilling, president of the conservative think tank American Principles Project, applauded the bill's passage. 

"Across the country, minors are not allowed to drink alcohol, smoke, gamble, or get tattoos — so why in the world would we support them getting sterilizing sex-change procedures before they are mature enough to make that decision?" Schilling asked. "That’s not to mention the many other terrible side effects of these drugs now being discovered, all of which have convinced countries such as Sweden, Finland, and the U.K. to recommend pausing these procedures for children."

Schilling also said the bill's passage signals a "significant shift" in Utah politics. 

"Just last year, Gov. Cox vetoed legislation protecting women’s sports, capitulating to the radical LGBT lobby," Schilling wrote. "It is encouraging to see him make the right decision now in signing S.B. 16, and we encourage the many other states still without such protections to follow Utah’s example."

According to a report from the group Do No Harm, "a diverse group of physicians, healthcare professionals, medical students, patients, and policymakers," a handful of countries have changed their medical guidelines on trans-identified youth amid concerns about the effects such interventions can have, including infertility and disfigurement. 

In October, the United Kingdom's National Health Service proposed new guidelines warning that doctors shouldn't so easily encourage minors with gender dysphoria to socially transition by changing their names and pronounces because some of those children may be going through a "transient phase."

The proposed guideline follows an independent review led by Dr. Hillary Cass, the former head of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Cass' review found that "social transitioning" is not a "neutral act" and could have "significant effects" in terms of "psychological functioning." 

As The Christian Post reported, many individuals who detransitioned are speaking out about the damaging side effects of undergoing chemical and surgical transitions at young ages.

During a public hearing in Florida in July, detransitioner Chloe Cole recounted how she took drugs and underwent surgeries to change her gender at an age when she was incapable of fully comprehending the consequences of her decision. When Cole was 15, she had a double mastectomy to remove her breasts. 

"I was unknowingly physically cutting off my true self from my body, irreversibly and painfully," she said. 

A two-part Fox Nation documentary released in September titled "Transgressive: The Cult of Confusion," featured the stories of individuals who altered their sex and came to regret the decision. 

Helena Kerschner is one of the detransitioners whose story is featured in the documentary. When Kerschner was 15, she began identifying as a boy during a time in her life when she was suffering from anxiety and depression. The detransitioner said social media websites like Tumblr encouraged her to transition. 

Eventually, Kerschner came to regret her choice, and stopped identifying as a male. 

"I had like a big realization moment where I just realized how much I just regretted this whole thing, and I was wrong, and that I'm not trans," she said. "And it was like the cloud just lifted, and I immediately became a normal person again. I immediately became myself again."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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