Transgender minors in Mississippi can no longer receive gender-affirming care in the state after its Republican governor signed a bill Tuesday that prohibits health care professionals from providing both hormone treatments and surgical procedures.
Gov. Tate Reeves’ approval of HB 1125 comes as Republican-led states around the country are pushing an unprecedented number of bills seeking to restrict gender-affirming care this year. Debates around the issue have reached into new territory in recent months after some lawmakers proposed measures that would extend some of the bans to people older than 18.
Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender – the one the person was designated at birth – to their affirmed gender – the gender by which one wants to be known.
Mississippi’s ban – which went into effect immediately after Reeves signed it – outlaws the prescription and administration of puberty-blocking medication and cross-sex hormone therapy in patients under the age of 18, and prohibits surgery related to gender transition. The law also makes it illegal for people to “knowingly engage in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of gender transition procedures” to minors.
Any health care professional found to be in violation of the ban will have their license to practice medicine in the state revoked, according to the law, which also gives people who “assert an actual or threatened” violation of the ban the right to bring civil suits against “against any facility, individual or entity” for violating its provisions. The statute of limitations for bringing such suits is 30 years.
“At the end of the day, there are two positions here. One tells children that they’re beautiful the way they are. That they can find happiness in their own bodies. The other tells them that they should take drugs and cut themselves up with expensive surgeries in order to find freedom from depression. I know which side I’m on,” Reeves said in a statement on Tuesday.
Major medical associations agree that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria, which, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is psychological distress that may result when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not align.
Though the care is highly individualized, some children may decide to use reversible puberty suppression therapy. This part of the process may also include hormone therapy that can lead to gender-affirming physical change. Surgical interventions, however, are not typically done on children and many health care providers do not offer them to minors.
LGBTQ advocates have long stressed that access to gender-affirming care is life-saving health care and is of critical importance to a group that suffers from uniquely high rates of suicide. A 2020 research brief from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, noted that “pubertal suppression is associated with decreased behavioral and emotional problems as well as decreased depressive symptoms.”
The group blasted Reeves’ decision to sign the bill on Tuesday, with Kasey Suffredini, its vice president of advocacy and government affairs, saying in a statement that “decisions around medical care should be made between parents, patients, and doctors – not by politicians.”
Earlier this month, South Dakota enacted a similar health care ban, and Utah put one on its books in January. Alabama, Arizona and Arkansas also enacted bans on gender-affirming care in recent years, though two of them have been temporarily blocked by federal courts.