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Missouri lawmakers consider further restrictions on transgender health care and gender policies

The 9-year-old son of Daniel and Karen Bogard, pictured at his St. Louis County home on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, is one of the transgender Missourians who has been targeted by anti-trans policies, rhetoric, and legislation.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The 9-year-old son of Daniel and Karen Bogard, pictured at his St. Louis County home on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, is one of the transgender Missourians who has been targeted by anti-trans policies, rhetoric, and legislation.

Missouri House members gathered for over eight hours Wednesday to ask questions and hear testimony on a list of bills that would place further restrictions on transgender people in the state.

Included in the seven bills the House Emerging Issues Committee heard comment on is one that would remove the sunset clause on Missouri’s law prohibiting transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers.

Missouri lawmakers passed the law, known as the SAFE Act, last session but included both a grandfather clause for transgender youth already receiving such prescribed medical care and an expiration date on the sections barring access to puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

Both of those changes were added for the bill to pass the Missouri Senate, where Democrats filibustered earlier versions.

Rep. Brad Hudson, R-Cape Fair, sponsored the bill in the House last session. He said he disagreed with both of those provisions in the law, which is why he’s trying to change it.

“There should have never been a sunset on it to begin with. And I think it needs to be removed,” Hudson said.

Gender-affirming care includes medical and mental health treatments as well as social support.

The practice is supported by multiple medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. Doctors say it’s rare for minors to undergo any form of transition-related surgery before age 18.

The removal of the expiration date on the ban received pushback from Democrats, including Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City.

“I really understand the reason for a sunset is to allow a piece of legislation to be enacted and see kind of what the consequences are, maybe some unintended consequences,” Aune said.

Hudson also sponsored a bill that would allow a medical institution or professional to opt out of participating in gender-affirming health care treatments that “are contrary to the institution's or professional's moral, ethical, or religious beliefs.”

“This bill simply allows doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to decline to perform certain procedures that violate their conscience,” Hudson said.

Testimony over these two bills alone lasted more than three hours, with ultimately more people speaking against the legislation than in its favor.

One of the people speaking in favor of the legislation was Jamie Reed, a former caseworker at the Washington University Transgender Center at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis.

Last February, Reed claimed there was misconduct and improper care at the clinic. An internal inquiry by Washington University found her claims to be unsubstantiated. They ignited a political firestorm and helped drive interest in passing bans on transition-related health care for transgender minors in the state.

“Passing the SAFE Act was the right thing to do. And I am here today in support of extending it beyond the sunset,” Reed said.

In their testimony to the committee, Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of PROMO Missouri, an LGBTQ public policy and advocacy organization, listed a number of former Missourians who left the state in response to the law passing last year.

“The total harm this legislative body has committed against trans and queer Missourians is incalculable,” Erker-Lynch said.

In addition to the two bills by Hudson, committee members heard testimony on legislation that:

  • Restricts bathroom, locker and shower room access in public schools to a person’s sex assigned at birth.
  • Creates new definitions in the Missouri Human Rights Act for “sex,” “male” and “female.” The definitions are based on reproductive organs.
  • Creates new statutory definitions for gender terms, as well as seeks to define gender synonymously with sex.
  • Prohibits employers from requiring employees to share a multiple-occupancy restroom with someone of the opposite sex.

The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to weigh in on bathroom access for transgender students in public schools.

Tuesday’s decision by the court to not take up an appeal by an Indiana school district means the lower court’s ruling allowing transgender students to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity stands.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is a first year graduate student at the University of Missouri studying public affairs reporting. She spent her undergraduate days as a radio/television major and reported for KBIA. In addition to reporting shifts, Sarah also hosted KBIA’s weekly education show Exam, was an afternoon newscaster and worked on the True/False podcast. Growing up, Sarah listened to episodes of Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! with her parents during long car rides. It’s safe to say she was destined to end up in public radio.