Mississippi has become the fifth state in the country to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth after Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit physicians from providing puberty blockers and reassignment surgeries to minors.
The legislation — known as House Bill 1125 — was authored by Republican state Rep. Gene Newman and is set to take effect immediately after its passage.
“This is a devastating development for transgender youth in Mississippi and heartbreaking for all of us who love and support them,” the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi stated in a news release.
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“This care was already difficult to access across the state for transgender people of any age, but this law shuts the door on best-practice medical care and puts politics between parents, their children and their doctors.”
Both Utah and South Dakota passed similar bans earlier this month banning gender-affirming care for trans youth. Similar laws in Alabama and Arkansas have been fully or partially blocked by federal courts.
In Mississippi, trans youth will no longer be able to obtain medications like puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to help them transition. Procedures including penectomies, castrations, vaginoplasties and clitoroplasties are also banned.
Healthcare professionals who break the law can have their licenses revoked and be sued by their patients after they turn 18. Patients can bring a suit forward prior to becoming adults if they do so through a parent or friend. The statute of limitations for bringing a civil claim is 30 years.
“At the end of the day, there are two positions here,” said Reeves in a written statement after signing the bill. “One tells children that they’re beautiful the way there are. That they can find happiness in their own bodies.
“The other tells them that they should take drugs and cut themselves up with expensive surgeries in order to find freedom from depression. I know which side I’m on. No child in Mississippi will have these drugs or surgeries pushed upon them.”
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After news of the law’s passage broke, activists announced their intentions to fight the ban in hopes of making gender-affirming care available to minors again.
Transgender youth have a significantly increased risk of suicide due to the possibility of being stigmatized or mistreated by society, according to The Trevor Project, a non-profit working to end LGBTQIA+ suicide.
In addition, providing gender-affirming care to trans youth has been shown to lower risks of depression and suicide among teens, according to a 2022 study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and experts at Children’s hospitals in Seattle, Wash. and San Diego, Calif.
Stacie Pace, a provider at Spectrum: The Other Clinic, a medical practice specializing in gender-affirming care in Hattiesburg, Miss., said that the new law is likely to increase instances of suicide and discrimination in trans youth.
“Our hearts are heavy with the burden of knowing what this can lead to,” she said in a news release, adding that the organization plans to abide by the legislation and halt services for trans minors.
Other activists accused Mississippi lawmakers of treating trans teens as political pawns.
Mickie Strato, president of The Spectrum Center of Hattiesburg, an event space for the LGBTQIA+ community, called the state’s decision to ban the care an “act of violence.”
“The lawmakers who pushed this bill in Mississippi are willfully ignoring the unique needs of transgender young people, interfering with their medical care and sending a stigmatizing, exclusionary message,” he said.
Still, “advocates for transgender equality in Mississippi and beyond will continue doing everything in our power to care for and protect trans youth in our state,” he said.