In an act that has sparked both controversy and support, Mike Parson, the Governor of Missouri, endorsed two pieces of legislation on Wednesday that stand to have a significant impact on the lives of transgender youth in the state.
One law prevents minors from accessing transgender health care, while the other restricts sports participation to teams that align with an athlete’s biological sex.
Governor Parson, who is a member of the Republican party, expressed his belief that by signing these bills into law, Missouri was taking a stand against what he termed as “nonsense” and was demonstrating solidarity with women and girls who have “fought for an equal opportunity to succeed.”
In explaining his support for the new legislation, Parson maintained that the purpose of the law was to “protect children from making life-altering decisions that they could come to regret in adulthood once they have physically and emotionally matured.”
As of August 28, healthcare providers in Missouri will be unable to prescribe sex change surgeries for teenagers and children. The law allows most adults to continue accessing transgender health care, but stipulates that such services will no longer be covered under Medicaid.
Not surprisingly, this move has provoked a backlash from major medical organizations, which have largely voiced opposition to such bans and instead have advocated for medical care for young people when deemed appropriate by health professionals. In the wake of similar legislation in other states, lawsuits have been initiated to challenge these types of bans.
Proponents of trans rights have expressed their anger and disappointment over these new laws. Shira Berkowitz, a representative of Missouri’s LGBTQ+ advocacy group PROMO, accused the governor of displaying “just how little Missouri’s state government values LGBTQ+ lives and, in particular, transgender and gender-expansive youth.”
The Democratic Minority Leader in the Missouri House, Crystal Quade, also condemned the governor’s actions, arguing that these new laws persecute “innocent families who are just trying to live their lives in peace.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri stated that these bills would have “devastating” consequences for trans individuals across all age groups. The organization also declared its commitment to “explore all options to fight these bans and to expand the rights of trans Missourians.”
The implementation of these laws in Missouri forms part of a broader national trend, largely led by conservatives, that aims to impose restrictions on transgender and nonbinary people. Along with abortion, this has emerged as a major theme of state legislative sessions this year.
Missouri now joins the ranks of at least 20 other states that have enacted laws either restricting or outright banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors.
However, it’s worth noting that this trend has not gone uncontested at the federal level. Federal judges have already blocked the enforcement of similar laws in Alabama and Arkansas. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has consented to a temporary hold on the enforcement of its own ban pending a court order sought by opponents of the law.