Utah’s Governor Signs Gender-Affirming Health Care Ban, along with School Choice Bills into Law

Utah Republican Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill banning gender-affirming surgery on minors who have not yet been diagnosed with gender dysphoria over the weekend. 

The GOP-dominated state legislature prioritized the ban and considered a first draft of the measure only two days after the legislature’s opening on January 17. Governor Cox signed the measure a day after it was sent to his desk by the legislature. 

The governor emphasized  the importance of pausing “these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”

“While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures,” said Cox.

Among the measure’s critics is the ACLU of Utah, which urged Cox to veto the bill.

In a letter to the governor, the civil rights organization said it was deeply worried about “the damaging and potentially catastrophic effects this law will have on people’s lives and medical care and the grave violations of people’s constitutional rights it will cause.”

“By cutting off medical treatment supported by every major medical association in the United States, the bill compromises the health and well-being of adolescents with gender dysphoria. It ties the hands of doctors and parents by restricting access to the only evidence-based treatment available for this serious medical condition and impedes their ability to fulfill their professional obligations,” read the letter. 

Cox: Legislation impacts most vulnerable youth

Republican Senator Mike Kennedy, also a family doctor and the bill’s sponsor, said oversight by the government is crucial for vital healthcare policy pertaining to youth and gender. 

Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Senator Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue,” said Cox in a statement. 

“More and more experts, states, and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences,” continued Cox. 

The Utah bill comes as lawmakers in at least 18 states are considering comparable bills that target healthcare for young transgender people.

Gov. Cox also signed another measure that would provide school choice for students and scholarships to attend schools outside the public education system. The legislation also increased teacher benefits and paid to ease the state’s shortage of teachers.