Florida doctors could lose their medical licenses if they order puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery for minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria, under a Florida Board of Medicine rule that took effect Thursday.
Opponents of the ban, pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration, pledged to file a lawsuit challenging the rule.
A Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine rule with identical prohibitions will take effect March 28.
The state Department of Health in July filed a petition seeking a rule-making process on the contentious issue of treatment for gender dysphoria, which the federal government defines clinically as “significant distress that a person may feel when sex or gender assigned at birth is not the same as their identity.”
DeSantis is among GOP politicians nationwide targeting gender-affirming care for minors. DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo argue that gender-affirming treatment for youths is experimental and not backed by robust clinical research.
But dozens of medical associations contend that the state’s approach is at odds with widely accepted guidelines and that gender-affirming treatment is safe, effective and medically necessary.
Under the new rules, minors currently being treated with puberty blockers or hormone therapies would be allowed to continue the treatment. Children who have begun to socially transition but have not started puberty blockers, however, would be ineligible for such treatment.
In a news release Thursday, several LGBTQ-advocacy groups said they are preparing to challenge the treatment ban in federal court. Simone Chriss, director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, said the state’s policy is contradicted by evidence and science.
“There is an unbelievable degree of hypocrisy when a state that holds itself out as being deeply concerned with protecting ‘parents’ rights’ strips parents of their right to ensure their children receive appropriate medical care,” Chriss said in a prepared statement.
Chriss is among the lawyers in a separate case challenging a decision by the state Agency for Health Care Administration to stop Medicaid reimbursements for gender-affirming care for children and adults.
The new Board of Medicine rule took effect as lawmakers consider proposals that would enshrine the prohibition against gender-affirming treatment for minors in state law and impose other restrictions.
A Senate measure would make it a felony for doctors or other health-care professionals to order puberty blockers, hormone treatment or surgery for transgender minors.