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Trump-aligned group wants the state to close the University of Utah’s gender clinic

The Primary Children's Outpatient Services building, which houses the University of Utah's Gender Management & Support Clinic, in Salt Lake City, Nov. 20, 2023
Jim Hill
The Intermountain and UHealth Primary Children's Outpatient Services clinic in Salt Lake City, Nov. 20, 2023

A conservative legal group is urging state leaders to close the University of Utah’s Gender Management & Support Clinic, the only public clinic in Utah that specializes in gender-affirming care for transgender adolescents.

In a letter addressed to Gov. Spencer Cox, the Utah Legislature, Senate President Stuart Adams and Mark Steinagel, director of the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, America First Legal alleges “shocking misconduct” by the clinic for “performing chemical castration, genital mutilation, and other unconscionable acts of child abuse.”

The group, founded in 2021 by former Trump administration advisors Stephen Miller and Gene Hamilton, is calling for the use of “all lawful remedies” to shutter the clinic. The letter also pleaded for the state to ban “all hormonal transgender treatments” and “revoke the licenses and medical credentials of health care providers” that provide those treatments.

The “misconduct” the group is referring to is prescribing puberty blockers and hormone therapy, such as testosterone and estrogen, to transgender youth. They also cite that the clinic requires minors to “enter into a binding contract” to undergo treatment and that minors “don’t understand.”

In a statement, University of Utah Health told KUER that “care providers at the Gender Management & Support Clinic comply with state law, including the most recently passed SB16.”

Gender-affirming health care has been a political lightning rod this year. Utah became the first of several states in 2023 to ban procedures for adolescents. However, at the time of the law’s signing, transgender youth already diagnosed with gender dysphoria and prescribed puberty blockers, estrogen or testosterone before the law went into effect were exempt.

No transgender minor is legally allowed to undergo gender-affirming surgeries in Utah. Additionally, genital reconstructive surgery, also known as “bottom surgery,” is not performed on transgender minors and goes against the standards of care set by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

The care ban has had an immediate effect on care in Utah, both for adolescents and adults.

Chris, a 17-year-old transgender man and one of the clinic’s patients, is still able to receive testosterone because he was taking it before Utah’s ban went into effect. KUER agreed to only use his first name due to safety concerns.

He said people often “don’t understand the fear” of visiting the doctor as a transgender person. His experience at the clinic has been “incredible” and “very affirming.”

“Being in a place that I'm safe, I'm good, is really valuable, and knowing that there's at least someone who has your back in terms of transgender care is very important,” Chris said.

The language used by America First Legal, Chris said, is “unscientific” and “jumping to feelings based on buzzwords.”

Chris was a patient at the clinic for roughly two years prior to being prescribed any gender-affirming medication. He said he had nearly 10 visits before his doctors prescribed him puberty blockers and around 20 visits before he was prescribed testosterone. He said he and his parents were involved in many conversations with his various therapists and medical professionals about the medication, its potential side effects and expected outcomes. Two of Chris’s therapists and his doctors at the clinic all had to sign off on him going on testosterone as well. And because Chris is a minor, his parents also had to agree and sign the consent form.

Phil Lyman, a Republican state representative and candidate for governor, is supportive of the letter. Lyman voted in favor of the state’s ban. In a statement to KUER, he said “not only should the clinic be shut down immediately, but an in-depth investigation should be made into those who have advocated for these barbaric experiments” alleged in the letter.

“These kids are not able to consent,” Lyman added. “Children do not have the capacity to understand the implications of these choices. Parents who rely on bad advice from financially or ideologically motivated practitioners are being misled.”

The governor’s office said in a statement to KUER that Gov. Cox signed the ban “precisely to prevent transgender minors from receiving hormone blockers, surgeries or other treatments with life-altering consequences.” The statement adds the law “clearly states that ‘a health care provider may not provide a hormonal transgender treatment to a patient who: (a) is a minor as defined in Section 58-1-603; and (b) is not diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the effective date of this bill.’”

KUER did not get a response to a request for comment on the call to ban all access to hormone therapy for transgender youth, including for individuals who had previously been exempt.

Melanie Hall, the communication director for the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, which oversees medical licenses, told KUER that any letter “alleging violations of law is reviewed to determine whether we have jurisdiction for their allegations. If we do, DOPL would then evaluate whether the allegations are true.”

The division noted, though, that it does not regulate clinics but rather it does regulate individual health care professionals. America First Legal’s letter made allegations against the clinic, not a specific practitioner.

“If any health care practitioner in this clinic, or any other clinic, is found to violate state licensing laws, they may be subject to disciplinary action,” Hall said.

The Utah Senate did not respond to KUER’s request for comment.

Editor’s note: KUER is a licensee of the University of Utah but operates as an editorially independent news organization.

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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