(ORLANDO) — The Florida Department of Health has released new guidance reaffirming its stance against gender-affirming care for transgender youth, following similar efforts by several other Republican-led states across the country.
The agency slammed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which recently stated its commitment to “supporting and protecting” transgender youth, their families and caretakers.
“The federal government’s medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care,” said Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo.
He claimed the HHS’ move to protect gender-affirming care was about “injecting political ideology into the health of our children.”
Sarah Lovenheim, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, slammed the decision.
“HHS stands with transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families — and the significant majority of expert medical association — in unequivocally stating that gender-affirming care for minors, when medically appropriate and necessary, improves their physical and mental health,” she said in a statement.
In March, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced actions the department was taking to protect the decisions of families with LGBTQ youth following a move from Texas leaders that declared gender-affirming care “child abuse.”
“At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving,” Becerra said in a statement.
HHS issued guidance that gender-affirming care for minors, when medically appropriate and necessary, improves their physical and mental health.
“Attempts to restrict, challenge, or falsely characterize this potentially lifesaving care as abuse is dangerous,” the HHS stated in its guidance.
It continued, “Such attempts block parents from making critical health care decisions for their children, create a chilling effect on health care providers who are necessary to provide care for these youth, and ultimately negatively impact the health and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming.”
The Florida DOH says social gender transition should not be an option for children or adolescents and people under 18 should not be prescribed puberty blockers or hormone therapy.
It also says gender reassignment surgery should not be a treatment option for children or adolescents.
Instead, the department recommends social support and counseling for transgender students.
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
The state agency argued that the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatments can cause a lapse in brain development or cause cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk and thrombosis.
This argument has been debunked by several physicians who spoke to ABC News, who say these potential side effects only present real risks after puberty has already occurred and are not a risk to youth taking puberty blockers.
They also assert that adolescents are not being given physical gender reassignment surgeries.
LGBTQ advocates quickly denounced Florida’s move.
“Decades of evidence demonstrates that affirming transgender and nonbinary youth in their identities contributes to positive mental health outcomes and can reduce the risk for suicide,” said Sam Ames, the director of advocacy and government affairs at LGBTQ suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project.
“This is appalling. Governor DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health should be doing everything they can to support all kids, rather than playing politics with their lives,” LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD said in a statement. “All major medical associations support gender-affirming care for trans youth. Denying kids live-saving, medically necessary, gender-affirming care is downright dangerous.”
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