Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has signed a bill that effectively bans gender- reassignment drugs from being prescribed to children.
The Republican is withholding Covid relief funds from the state’s pediatric hospital system unless it stops providing puberty blockers and hormone therapy to minors.
Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health has been allocated $108million in federal funds as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
But under Stitt’s new bill, the hospital can only receive the funds if it ceases all gender-affirming medical care on those under 18.
Gov. Stitt said Tuesday: ‘By signing this bill today we are taking the first step to protect children from permanent gender transition surgeries and therapies.’
‘It is wildly inappropriate for taxpayer dollars to be used for condoning, promoting, or performing these types of controversial procedures on healthy children,’ he said.
The University of Oklahoma hospital system currently offers the life-altering drugs to children over the age of 16. Around 100 patients are currently receiving treatment.
Stitt also called for the GOP-controlled Legislature to ban some of those gender-affirming treatments statewide when it returns in February.
He said in a statement that he wanted a prohibition on ‘all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies’ on minors.
Stitt has signed bills to limit transgender children in sports as well as a bathroom bill that blocks students from using the restroom that reflects their gender identity.
The bill stipulates that those services include ‘interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics, interventions to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity, and medical therapies and medical intervention used to treat gender dysphoria.’
The bill’s language takes particular aim at OU Children’s Adolescent Medicine Roy G. Biv program.
The hospital currently offers transition care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and help finding surgeons who perform gender-affirming surgeries for people up to age 24.
What does this mean for trans healthcare in Oklahoma?
The hospital system has already indicated it will cease some gender transition services it performs to comply with the law.
Trans children in the state are now severely limited in where they can go for treatment.
Many who want gender-affirming care will have to travel out of state to get it.
Stitt has called for legislators to ban irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors
The bill provides nearly $40 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan to increase and expand capacity for pediatric behavioral healthcare, $20 million for cancer patients who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, $44 million to bolster electronic health record systems, and over $5 million for mobile dental units.
OU health said in a statement that the senior leadership team ‘is proactively planning the ceasing of certain gender medicine services across our facilities and that plan is already under development.’
This is not the first instance of Stitt and the majority-Republican legislature targeting trans youth.
In March, he signed the the Save Women’s Sports Act, which bans public school students of all ages as well as college athletes from competing on the sports teams of their gender identity if that differs from their sex assigned at birth.
Gov Stitt also signed a bill in May that bans public school students from using the bathroom that best reflects their gender identity if it does not match with the gender listed on their birth certificate.
The bill’s signing has been met with pushback from social justice and physicians groups.
Tamya Cox-Touré, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said, ‘Today, Oklahoma politicians took the next step in joining their colleagues in Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, by attacking lifesaving, best-practice medical care for Oklahoma’s transgender youth.’
‘Medical experts agree: Gender-affirming care is medically necessary care. And today’s actions, along with the displays on the House and Senate floors, show a fundamental ignorance about medical treatment for transgender youth,’ she added.
The Oklahoma State Medical Association, meanwhile, called the major caveat in the bill ‘disturbing.’
‘Unfortunately, instead of supporting the mental health of Oklahoma’s children, lawmakers are once again inserting themselves into private health care,’ the organization said.
Stitt also called on the Republican-led legislature to ban certain gender-affirming services outright when it returns to session in February.
He said, ‘We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happening all across our nation, and as governor I will not allow life-altering transition surgeries on minor children in the state of Oklahoma.’