Florida joined seven other states on Thursday in restricting transition-related medical care for minors — and parents of transgender youth in the state promptly announced they plan to challenge the measure in court.
After months of tense hearings and debate, the Florida Board of Medicine issued a rule prohibiting minors from starting puberty blockers or hormone therapy. Minors who were already receiving the treatment before the rule came into force can continue to do so, although the rule prohibits all minors from undergoing gender-affirming surgery.
The Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine will issue an identical rule on March 28th.
In joint public hearings for the two rules, members of the Board of Medicine said there isn’t enough research to justify the possible side effects of the treatments.
During a final public hearing on Feb. 10, several people testified that the rule contradicts most medical evidence and the guidance of nearly all relevant medical associations in the US, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association . But dr Hector Vila, a pediatric anesthetist and member of the Board of Medicine, disagreed, saying the board “reviewed hundreds of studies.”
“We’ve spoken to doctors, we’ve gotten testimonies from both sides on this issue, and the overwhelming data doesn’t support the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapies,” Vila said.
“This board is not against research; it’s not against the care of transgender children,” he said. “What the board has been trying to do is protect our children from therapies that have been shown to cause irreversible harm.”
Under the newly enacted rule, anyone can file a complaint against a doctor, and if the doctor is found to be violating the rule, he may face, among other things, a reprimand, a fine, or the suspension or revocation of his license to practice, and other consequences.
The rule already faces a legal challenge from a group of parents represented by four national advocacy groups: the Southern Legal Counsel, the GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Human Rights Campaign.
One of the plaintiffs, identified as Jane Doe in a press release, said the ban will prevent her 11-year-old trans daughter from accessing the treatment she will need when she reaches puberty.
“Our daughter is a happy, confident child, but denying her access to the medical care recommended by her doctors would completely ruin her life,” Doe said, according to the press release. “I’m devastated at what this will mean for her physical and mental health.”
Another plaintiff, a Florida mother who is joining the lawsuit on behalf of her 14-year-old son, said the rule “deprives parents like me of our right to ensure our children receive appropriate, evidence-based medical care.”
“My son had finally gotten to a point where he had hope, where testosterone prescription was on the horizon and he could see a future for himself in his own body, but that was snatched away by this discriminatory rule,” she said into a statement. “I am very concerned about the impact that not having access to medical treatment will have on my child. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to have to worry about the unthinkable.”
Florida’s Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the legal challenge.
The rules are part of a broader effort across Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to restrict gender-affirming grooming. In August, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration banned Medicaid from adopting puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery as treatments for gender dysphoria for patients of all ages, following a June request from the state health department. Civil rights groups challenged the measure, but a federal judge allowed it in October.
In the state Legislature, a Senate committee on Monday passed a bill that would ban minors from starting puberty blockers or hormone therapies or undergo surgery to treat gender dysphoria, and would prevent state funds from covering transitional care for patients of all ages . The bill will be reviewed by another Senate committee and would then have to pass a full vote in the Senate and House of Representatives before it is sent to the governor.
The measure would also give courts jurisdiction in custody cases “to protect the child from being subjected to gender reassignment regulations or procedures.”
It would allow minors already receiving the treatments to continue, but would require such treatments – even for adults – to be administered by a doctor rather than a nurse or other licensed healthcare provider.
Eight states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Mississippi and now Florida — are restricting transition-related medical care for minors.
Florida lawmakers have tabled 10 bills targeting LGBTQ people so far this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. State legislatures across the country have tabled more than 400 such bills, according to the ACLU and a separate group of researchers tracking the flow of legislation.
Jim Lopresti, the founder of SunServe, a Fort Lauderdale mental health agency that treats LGBTQ youth, said his practice has already seen the proposed and passed legislation, along with the debate on the Board of Medicine rule families regarding.
“The place where we find most of the problems and concerns is in the stress of families and youth who are now finding that because of the whole complex of anti-LGBTQ initiatives in Florida, they find so few safe places to go can turn,” he called.
Proponents of restrictions on gender-affirming care often argue that minors may later regret the transition, but Lopresti said that in the roughly two decades he’s worked with trans youth, he can only think of one person who has regrets as an adult experienced, namely to her, because that person did not have adequate support throughout the process.
“When we hear about regret, it’s mostly from people in the trans community who regret not doing it sooner — that’s a much more common experience,” he said.