June 8 (UPI) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday signed controversial legislation banning minors and some adults from gender-affirming healthcare and transgender athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams.
Parson, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 49, known as the Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, which states that starting Aug. 28, healthcare providers will be prohibited from administering surgical or medicinal gender-affirming care to those under the age of 18.
Though purportedly about protecting children from this form of healthcare, the law also bars MO HealthNet and Missouri’s Medicaid program from covering gender-affirming care for adults, affecting lower-income individuals. It also prevents incarcerated Missourians from receiving gender-transition surgeries.
“We support everyone’s right to his or her own pursuit of happiness; however, we must protect children from making life-altering decisions that they could come to regret in adulthood once they have physically and emotionally matured,” Parson said in a statement.
“These decisions have permanent consequences for life and should not be made by impressionable children who may be in crisis or influenced by the political persuasions of others.”
The law was signed despite leading medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, supporting the administration of gender-affirming care, including for minors, with some calling on politicians to stop interfering in the patient-doctor relationship.
According to Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, surgical gender-affirming care is typically performed when the patient is an adult and only on a case-by-case basis for minors.
Parson signed the bill as his state has sought in recent months to ban gender-affirming care for minors.
In mid-April, Missouri’s Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, promulgated an emergency rule that placed restrictions on gender-affirming care by clarifying state laws to state the medical practice was already prohibited by arguing that it is “experimental.”
Last month, Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft unexpectedly terminated the rule as it was met with litigation.
On Wednesday, Parson also signed Senate Bill 39, which prohibits transgender athletes from playing on girls’ or women’s sports teams in all public, private and charter grade schools and private colleges and universities.
“Women and girls deserve and have fought for an equal opportunity to succeed, and with this legislation today, we stand up to the nonsense and stand with them as they take back their sport competitions,” Parson said in a statement.
The legislation were signed amid a Republican effort to restrict the rights of transgender Americans — which has received staunch pushback from civil, human and LGTQ rights advocates as well as Democrats who accuse the GOP of targeting the minority group.
“The governor had a chance to protect innocent families who are just trying to live their lives in peace. Instead, he chose to persecute them,” Missouri House minority leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat, said in a scathing statement issued Wednesday after the bills were signed.
“The governor could have said ‘no’ to bigotry and hate. Instead, he embraced it. History tends to reflect poorly on oppression and the oppressors, and the stain of this action will not wash away.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri derided Senate Bill 49 as “deceitful” for attacking the healthcare of adults under the guise of protecting children as well as banning the medical procedure from adults based on their income.
“As was true with the attorney general’s failed attempt to limit care for all trans Missourians with his emergency rule, Senate Bill 49 ignores the evidence-based clinical recommendations of every major medical association,” ACLU of Missouri said in a statement.
Concerning Senate Bill 39, ACLU of Missouri accused legislators of having taken “extraordinary efforts” to ban eight student athletes from playing sports.
“These bills do nothing but harm transgender Missourians and their families while adding inequities to a system already ripe with discriminatory laws and practices,” it said.
The ACLU of Missouri said it will explore “all options” to fight these bans.
Meanwhile, the American Principles Project, a conservative nonprofit, celebrated the bills’ passing, saying the politicians are standing up against a “destructive movement” while taking steps to “recognize reality in law.”
“The momentum continues to build nationwide to defeat the transgender industry, and we’re just getting started,” American Principles Project President Terry Schilling said in a statement.
In Missouri, an estimated 2,900 people between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender, representing 0.75% of the state’s population, the Wilson Institute at UCLA said.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, at least 19 states have banned medicinal and surgical gender-affirming care for minors, with five states making it a felony.