Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration are working to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and those on Medicaid, according to a letter obtained by NBC News Thursday.
In a letter to the Florida Board of Medicine, the governing body that oversees medical professionals, Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo claims that gender-affirming care like puberty blockers, hormone therapies and gender-reassignment surgeries are “politics-based medicine” and children who receive them “face a substantial risk of long-term harm.” Ladapo’s statements echo the guidance his agency, the Florida Department of Health, issued in April which advised against care for trans youth.
Ladapo asks the medical board to review his agency’s guidance and that of another section of DeSantis’ administration, the Agency for Health Care Administration, “to establish a standard of care for these complex and irreversible procedures.”
Neither puberty blockers nor hormone therapies are permanent procedures — puberty blockers temporarily suppress the puberty process to allow trans youth to delay physical changes that do not match their gender identity, and hormone therapies allow for changes that are gender-affirming and can mostly be reversed if they go off the medication. Gender-reassignment surgeries are also rarely, if at all, performed on children under 18.
Florida’s guidance goes against the recommendations from the Biden administration and major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, which have said that gender-affirming medical care is a medically-necessary service for transgender kids.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says gender-affirming care is “crucial to overall health and well-being” of transgender youth.
“A safe and affirming healthcare environment is critical in fostering better outcomes for transgender, nonbinary, and other gender expansive children and adolescents,” the federal health agency says. “Medical and psychosocial gender affirming healthcare practices have been demonstrated to yield lower rates of adverse mental health outcomes, build self-esteem, and improve overall quality of life for transgender and gender diverse youth.”
Earlier Thursday, Florida’s Department of Health put out a 46-page report arguing for a ban on gender-affirming care for Medicaid recipients in the state. With these guidances in place, DeSantis can enact rules against transgender care without legislative approval.
Florida would join Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas in banning care for transgender patients using Medicaid.