Missouri made headlines as the state abruptly terminated an emergency rule that imposed severe restrictions on gender-affirming care. The rule, announced by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey in March, faced significant backlash due to its stringent directives. It mandated that both minors and adults in the state undergo 15 hourly sessions with a therapist over a minimum period of 18 months before being eligible for gender-affirming care like hormone therapy or puberty blockers. Moreover, individuals had to be screened for autism and “social media addiction,” with mental health issues requiring treatment and resolution before treatment for gender dysphoria.
Critics swiftly condemned the regulation, decrying it as a “power grab” and an “outrageous attack on basic healthcare for transgender people of all ages.” The move raised concerns that trans adults and young individuals could be compelled to detransition, prompting a judge to temporarily halt the rule.
However, the recent decision to drop the rule was motivated by the passage of S.B. 49, a gender-affirming care ban for trans youth, by the state legislature. Governor Mik Parson, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law. Attorney General Bailey explained that the newly passed ban surpassed the authority of the rule, necessitating the defense of the statute in court. He stated, “We were standing in the gap in healthcare to protect patients unless or until the General Assembly acted, and the General Assembly closed the gap by enacting a statute.”
Nonetheless, critics, including State House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, expressed skepticism regarding Bailey’s true intentions, asserting that he withdrew the rule due to its unconstitutional nature. Quade remarked, “Andrew Bailey grossly overstepped his legal authority, and everyone knows it. So, it isn’t surprising he withdrew his unconstitutional rule knowing another embarrassing court defeat was inevitable. Missourians deserve an attorney general worthy of the office, not one who persecutes innocent Missourians for political gain.”
Despite the termination of the emergency rule, advocacy groups like Lambda Legal and the ACLU acknowledged the ongoing challenges faced by transgender individuals in Missouri. They emphasized that while the immediate threat had subsided, the Missouri Legislature continued to target the state’s trans community. Nora Huppert, a Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal, highlighted the potential harm caused by S.B. 49, which would deny adolescent transgender Missourians access to evidence-based treatment supported by the overwhelming medical consensus. The ACLU of Missouri echoed these sentiments, stating that the fight for trans rights persisted and emphasizing the importance of bodily autonomy.
As the contentious debate surrounding gender-affirming care unfolds in Missouri, the legislation’s opponents argue that it disregards the recommendations of reputable medical associations and seeks to replace informed decisions by patients and parents with the uninformed opinions of politicians. With Senate Bills 39 and 49 awaiting the governor’s decision, advocates urge Governor Parson to veto these bills and respect the dignity of trans youth and their families by allowing them to make crucial medical choices without undue interference from the political branches of government.
By prioritizing the rights and healthcare needs of transgender individuals, Missouri faces a critical juncture that will shape the landscape of LGBTQ+ rights and access to gender-affirming care in the state for years to come.