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Mississippi governor signs transgender health care ban for minors

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(JACKSON, Miss.) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill banning puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgeries for people under 18 in the state who are seeking gender-affirming health care.

The state joins six other states — Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, South Dakota and Utah — with laws or policies that ban minors from accessing care.

Studies, including research in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, have shown that gender-affirming care can be life-saving for transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents, promoting positive mental and physical health.

Transgender youth are more likely to experience poor mental health, suicide, substance use and other health risks due to discrimination and stigma, according to the CDC.

The new legislation also prevents public funds or tax deductions for gender-affirming procedures, “places enforcement procedures on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure and stops Medicaid from covering gender transition for persons under 18,” according to Reeves’ office.

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“At the end of the day, there are two positions here. One tells children that they’re beautiful the way they 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,” Reeves said in a statement on the signing of the bill. “I know which side I’m on. No child in Mississippi will have these drugs or surgeries pushed upon them.”

The law sparked outrage among the LGBTQ community and allies in the state, calling Reeves’ decision an “act of violence.”

“He and 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,” said Mickie Stratos, president of The Spectrum Center of Hattiesburg, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.

They continued, “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.”

Rob Hill, state director of Human Rights Campaign Mississippi, slammed Reeves, saying in a statement that the governor “doesn’t have an ounce of medical training.”

“He is in no position to dictate the decisions that doctors and their patients make about health care,” Hill said. “This is nothing more than an attempt to inflate his flagging poll numbers ahead of a difficult reelection campaign.”

Several major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, say that gender-affirming care is safe and effective. The American Medical Association has deemed it “medically necessary.”

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