TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Transgender children in Florida should not be given hormones or undergo surgery to treat gender dysphoria under a rule approved Friday by state medical officials at the urging of Republican administration Ron DeSantis.
The Florida Board of Medicine and the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted at a joint meeting in Lake Buena Vista to finalize: regulations on gender-affirming health care for minors. The rule will take effect after a weeks-long public input period.
The ban comes as DeSantis and Republicans in other states seek to restrict access to treatment for minors, often characterizing them as medically unproven and potentially dangerous in the long run, as a new political struggle against liberal ideologies.
Many doctors, mental health specialists and medical groups have argued that treatments for transgender youth are safe and beneficial, although rigorous long-term research is lacking. Federal health officials have described gender-affirming care as critical to the health and well-being of transgender children and adolescents.
DeSantis has made criticizing such treatment for minors a routine part of his reelection campaign, often referring to procedures in graphic terms at rallies and speeches. The new policy, which was finalized days before the election, marks another example of DeSantis’ ability to use government power to achieve controversial political goals, bolstering his national reputation as a combative GOP culture warrior.
The rule prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty-blocking, hormone and hormone antagonist therapies to treat gender dysphoria in minors. It prohibits gender reassignment surgery or other surgical procedures that alter primary or secondary sex characteristics in minors.
“Today’s vote of the Councils of Medicine and Osteopathy will protect our children from irreversible surgeries and highly experimental treatments. I value the integrity of the boards of directors in making decisions in the best interests of children in Florida, despite the enormous pressure to allow these unproven and risky treatments. Children deserve to learn how to navigate this world without harmful pressure, and Florida will continue to fight for children to be children,” Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said in a statement.
Florida Health Officials This year banned Medicaid insurance coverage for gender dysphoria treatments and released a report that said the treatments have not been shown to be safe or effective. After the report was published, Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee, called for the adoption of new rules around the treatments.
Florida has also clashed with federal health officials who advocate providing treatment for young people.
Gender-affirming health care for young people has been a target for Republicans in recent years. Last year, the American Medical Association issued a letter urging governors to block any legislation banning the treatment, calling such action “a dangerous breach of medical practice.”
Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban on gender-affirming care, with Republican lawmakers overriding GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the legislation in 2021. Alabama Republicans this year passed legislation to ban gender-affirming drugs for transgender youth. Both laws have been paused amid unfolding legal battles.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, signed a bill last month banning federal funds earmarked for the University of Oklahoma Medical Center from being used for sex reassignment treatments for minors. Stitt also called on lawmakers to ban some of those gender reassignment treatments statewide when it returns in February.
Top Tennessee Republicans have also vowed to push for a strict anti-transgender policy. The state already prohibits doctors from giving prepubescent minors gender-confirming hormone treatment. To date, no one has legally challenged the law, as medical experts argue that no doctor in Tennessee does.
In Florida, DeSantis signed a law last year banning transgender girls and women from playing on public school teams designed for student athletes identified as girls at birth.