Florida Board of Medicine Votes to Ban “Gender-Affirming” Care for Minors

Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

The Florida Board of Medicine has moved to ban so-called “gender-affirming” treatments such as drugs and surgery for those under the age of 18.

A joint legislative committee of the Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine voted to approve a rule that would effectively bar the practice for minors following a hearing on Friday that heard from medical experts representing arguments both for and against the controversial treatments, Florida Voice reported.

During the board’s hearing, concerns were voiced that too little is known about the long-term repercussions of the relatively novel medical approach that is gender-affirming surgery, while other experts echoed the medical establishment’s insistence that it is the best approach for gender dysphoric children.

The panel was ultimately convinced that concerns surrounding gender-affirming care outweighed any potential benefit it may have for transgender-identifying youth.

Dr. Michael Laidlaw testified that cross-sex hormones can lead to cardiovascular and sexual dysfunction, while women experience higher red blood cell counts, increased risk of breast cancer, and the possibility of severe liver dysfunction.

“Some of these other problems will be permanent, like being on puberty blockers for a couple of years will cause permanent loss of bone density,” he said during the hearing. “There’s brain development, which occurs under the influence of sex hormones, which will be altered permanently and other such effects.”

One woman, who was pregnant, testified that she had undergone treatment before ultimately making peace with her femininity and experiencing improved mental health — yet the effects of the drugs still lingered.

“After nearly four years of being on testosterone, I decided to de-transition and accept my womanhood. My mental health improved exponentially,” she said. “Three years later my menstrual cycle has still been irregular. I still have to shave my face daily and I struggle with hormonal acne.”

Representing those who support gender-affirming treatments for minors, one doctor pointed to the risk of transgender children experiencing bullying and depression and says she does not prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

“There is no one-size-fits-all model of care,” said Dr. Kristen Dayton. “The guidelines and standards for gender affirming care are set based on scientific data and evidence and medical treatments necessary to treat the conditions of gender dysphoria.”

Meanwhile, the parent of a transgender youth made the oft-referenced argument that disallowing transgender children access to gender-affirming care before they go through puberty increases the risk of suicide later in life.

“What you’re talking about is waiting till age 19,” the parent told the committee. “Well, they won’t be here. This group commits suicide. They will not be here, so we need the medication, please.”

Board of Medicine Member Nicholas Romanello, who proposed the rule, pointed to a lack of substantial evidence to support risking the adverse effects of gender-affirming treatments.

“I believe that based upon the testimony that we’ve heard this morning and the materials in the portal, that the risk of puberty suppressing therapies, cross-hormonal therapy and surgery, those risks outweigh the possible benefits and that there is a lack of consistent, reliable, scientific peer reviewed evidence concerning the efficacy and safety of such treatment,” said Florida Board of Medicine Member Nicholas Romanello, who proposed the rule.

Gender-affirming medical treatments for children has become one of this year’s most heated political and social issues and has taken center stage in the 2022 Republican platform heading into the midterms.

A number of states including Arizona and Tennessee have moved to ban the use of cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers, and surgeries such as mastectomies, castration, and hysterectomies for children, although each attempt has been halted by ongoing legal challenges.

There is expected to be a legal challenge to Florida’s move to ban the treatments.

The rule will now head to the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine for approval.

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