Louisiana advances transgender healthcare ban for minors

Martha Sanchez, Managing Editor

The bill would prevent people who are transgender from finding some forms of healthcare and has drawn fierce criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates. (Jude Papillion)

A Louisiana House of Representatives panel approved a ban on gender-affirming care this week amid fierce backlash as Louisiana debates LGBTQ+ rights in medicine and beyond. 

The bill seeks to protect the health and safety of Louisiana citizens and says gender-affirming healthcare is harmful if it causes children to identify with a gender different than their sex assigned at birth. 

Representative Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, who introduced the bill, said it would protect children who are rushed into gender-affirming healthcare by an industry that is pressuring youth to transition. 

The bill drew quick and bitter criticism from activists and doctors who say advocates are relying on faulty information, and that the bill would harm people who are transgender and reduce access to healthcare. 

If the bill is passed, “immediately, there will be lawsuits,” Scott Nolan, a professor who teaches a course on LGBTQ+ politics at Tulane University, said. 

Nolan said he disagrees with the law because it stands in the way of decisions between patients, their parents and doctors. 

“What’s very important to me is that the patient always consents to gender-affirming care,” Nolan said. “And that when patient and parent and physician align in a triangle, that law made in the state capitol not get in the way of that triangular relationship.” 

The bill follows other state proposals, like those that ban teachers calling students names or pronouns different than those on their birth certificates and gender and sexuality discussions in state classrooms. 

It also thrusts Louisiana into a rancorous nationwide debate. States from Oklahoma to Montana to Tennessee passed similar legislation this year, sparking intense disputes between protestors, law enforcement and politicians in some state capitols. 

If passed, Louisiana’s bill would ban virtually all gender transition procedures for minors and prevent physicians from referring minors to doctors for those procedures. Banned procedures under the bill range from genital reassignment surgeries and gender-affirming hormone therapy to aesthetic alterations like liposuction, hair reconstruction, breast augmentations and voice surgery. 

It would also ban the allocation of public funds to entities, organizations or individuals that provide gender transition procedures to minors and prevent insurance reimbursement for gender transition procedures performed on minors.

The bill says gender-affirming care is not supported by medical studies, and that people who receive it have expressed regret for surgeries performed when they were minors. State lawmakers ordered an analysis last summer that found no doctors in the state performed gender-reassignment surgery on children on Medicaid between 2017 and 2021. 

Petrice Sams-Abiodun, a vice president at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said the bill disregards science and “prevents parents from ensuring their children can get the essential care they need.”

“All Louisianans,” she said in a press release, “especially our most vulnerable community members, deserve more access to comprehensive, life-saving health care.”

Firment has said the bill’s intentions are not hateful, political or religious, and it only aims to protect children from life-altering procedures until they are mature enough to make the consequential decisions. 

A bipartisan panel of lawmakers approved the bill after hours of testimony on Tuesday. 

Representative Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, proposed an amendment that would let children receive gender-affirming care if they have parental support and two years of counseling. The House Health and Welfare Committee rejected Hughes’ proposal and passed Firment’s original bill on a 14-3 vote. 

It next moves to the House floor for consideration. 

Hannah Levitan and Gabi Liebeler contributed to the reporting of this story. 

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