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Utah Lawmaker Attempts To Revive Bill Restricting Gender Affirming Healthcare For Transgender And Gender Diverse Youth

A photo of Rex Shipp.
Ivana Martinez
Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, is sponsoring the bill to restrict gender affirming healthcare.

After receiving just a partial initial hearing earlier this year, a proposal to ban gender affirming healthcare for people under 18 years old is making its way back to the state Legislature. The Health and Human Services Interim Committee is set to discuss it Wednesday morning.

Under the legislation, minors wouldn’t be allowed to access puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and gender affirmation surgery.

“It's a mental health issue,” said the bill’s sponsor Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City. “They need to allow more mental health therapy with these kids and not allow the damaging blockers and hormones.”

Puberty blocking drugs put a pause on puberty at the early stages. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the leading medical journal for pediatricians, puberty blocking drugs are reversible and are typically stopped at the age of 16. When the drugs are stopped, puberty resumes. The AAP’s guidelines also explain that gender affirmation surgery is usually reserved for adults.

Hormone replacement therapy — administering testosterone or estrogen to patients — can have permanent impacts, depending on how long the patient uses them. It usually starts around the age of 16 or later.

Shipp’s messaging is harmful to gender diverse people, said Dr. Candice Metzler, executive director of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah and a mental health professional.

“They tell people that their authentic experience is really a broken experience, that such people just need mental health treatment because they're confused,” Metzler said. “That is no way to approach trying to provide health care to people.”

If the bill does pass the Legislature, the governor’s office could be a big roadblock. Gov. Spencer Cox has been an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and in February, he threatened to veto the original bill.

“I think we have to be really careful any time government gets in between doctors and families and patients,” Cox said in February. “It's not much of a stretch to go from saying, ‘You can only get this type of medical care or you can't get this type of medical care to you have to get a vaccine and government's going to force that.’”

His office did not comment on the effort to revive the bill.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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