Utah Bill Aims to Ban Gender-Affirming Surgery for Children

A Utah lawmaker introduced a bill that would ban gender-affirming procedures on children. Republican Senator Michael S. Kennedy introduced legislation in December, and Wednesday, it was given a favorable recommendation. 

According to a Salt Lake Tribune report, the bill would prohibit surgeries on minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The term describes when a person believes there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. 

In early 2022, a different bill that was introduced would have banned the use of hormone therapy or puberty blockers and would have prevented gender-altering surgery on minors. However, the bill never advanced and died. 

If the state were to pass the legislation, making it a law, lawyers have warned it would also be challenged, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. 

“I think the guarantee we absolutely can count on is if we pass this legislation, there will be a lawsuit. The state will be involved in very, very expensive litigation. And I do believe the state will lose,” said Democrat Representative Jennifer Dailey Provost to the publication.

Several states have squelched various forms of gender transition for minors in the ongoing debate over what has become called “gender-affirming care” for minors. 

Over half of the states in the United States have either attempted to pass or passed bills restricting access to transgender treatments for children. 

As of November, Alabama and Arkansas are the only states which passed legislation that completely bans transgender treatments for minors, although they are currently in legal limbo after court injunctions. So far, Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee have issued partial bans. The restrictions from Florida and Texas were not the result of any legislation.

Some bills have provisions that have been introduced or passed, including punishing parents who assist minors in obtaining such treatments, allowing damages to be filed against medical providers, criminalizing medical professionals who provide transgender treatments to children, or limiting Medicaid coverage or insurance for the treatments. 

Lawmakers are working on adding additional language to the bill that may provide something more contentious. Kennedy’s office confirmed that the legislation is set to be amended to address medication taken by some transgender youth to curb puberty called puberty blockers temporarily. 

“We continue to have thoughtful conversations with stakeholders before a final draft of the legislation is done,” said Kennedy in a statement. “I am looking forward to further discussions as we move forward to protect children.”

Some physicians oppose the legislation

Sue Robbins from Equality Utah said that Senator Kennedy, who is also a physician, “has been very engaging with us, and we appreciate that.” 

However, Robbins opposes the bill and adds a puberty-blocking medication to it.

“This becomes a parents’ rights issue where parents can make medical decisions for their youth,” said Robbins. “Utah is very much a parents’ rights state, and we need to adhere to that even for the transgender community.”

Bills that ban puberty blockers have been previously introduced in Utah before, including this year by Republican Representative Rex Shipp. But they haven’t progressed.