Florida medical boards vote to ban gender-affirming care for youth, providers already feeling impacts

Last month, the Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine voted to ban gender-affirming care for transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

 

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The ban will impact Floridians under 18 and ban care to treat gender dysphoria, including hormone blockers and gender-affirming surgery. According to USA Today Network, this ruling will only apply to new patients, not those currently in treatment.

Andrew Lent, Health Equity Trainer at Equality Florida, emphasized that this ruling is just one of the recent threats against gender-affirming care in Florida. In August, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration approved a rule banning gender-affirming care for both trans kids and adults from being covered by Medicaid. 

Lent described the ruling by the state medical boards as an “unprecedented attack” on gender-affirming care in the state.

“The rules that they finalize go directly against scientific research and best practices from major medical associations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Lent said. “It also adds to a lot of the stigma [toward trans people] that we’ve seen this year, especially from major state agencies.”

Lent said the ruling has already impacted Florida medical practices and communities, despite not having taken effect yet. 

“I’ve already seen in my work [that clinics] have had to shut down and sometimes stop accepting new patients,” he said. “There are providers that are afraid to continue giving life-saving, gender-affirming care for their patients out of fear of whatever consequences they may receive. It’s leaving a gap in care, even for those who are currently getting care and would be allowed to continue under the board’s rule.

But ultimately, it’s going to drastically harm trans and gender non-conforming youth in our state because it goes right against research that shows that gender-affirming care is helpful for mental and physical health. For those who do not have access to [this kind of care], trans youth are put at a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality.”

Lent said organizations like Equality Florida will continue to advocate for receivers and providers of gender-affirming care in the state, regardless of any changes made.

“We’re going to do what we’ve been doing, which is speaking out about [the] importance [of gender-affirming care],” he said. “What’s really important is mobilizing our providers that are actually giving out gender-affirming care who can talk about its benefits, the scientific validity of it, and they’re the experts who are practicing it and know what’s best for their patients. They don’t want politicians or politics coming in the way of their patients and families decisions.”

Lent said Equality Florida is expecting lawmakers to introduce a ban on gender-affirming care in the 2023 legislative session, one that would possibly criminalize it and penalize providers of this care.

The ban voted on by the Florida boards of medicine is still in a 28-day public comment period, after which it will take effect.