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Kansas Legislature Bans Trans Kids From Accessing Gender-Affirming Care

“Kansas children will die if this becomes law,” said state Senate Democratic leader Dinah Sykes.

Kansas House Speaker Daniel Hawkins, left, and Senate President Ty Masterson speak before the State of the State address at the Kansas State Capital on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in Topeka, Kansas.

The Kansas legislature passed an anti-trans bill on Wednesday that would bar transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care in the state.

“Kansas children will die if this becomes law,” said Senate Democratic leader Dinah Sykes. “Their decision to ban medically necessary, safe, effective health care is going to cost Kansas kids their lives.”

The bill, Senate Bill 233, would ban health care professionals from providing gender-affirming care to transgender children. Health care professionals risk losing their licenses if found in violation of the law. Doctors could also face legal consequences for a period of up to 10 years following a patient’s 18th birthday, and would not be able to use liability insurance to cover lawsuits stemming from breaches of the law.

“This bill places politicians’ feelings above the expert medical advice of hundreds of thousands of doctors, and strips patients and families of their ability to make informed healthcare decisions,” the ACLU of Kansas said in a letter to the Senate in opposition of the bill in February.

Under this bill, transgender children who already receive gender-affirming care will be forced to end treatment by the end of the calendar year.

“We’ve heard the experts in mental health, but also the kids themselves, talk about how stressful it is to be a trans kid,” Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) told reporters. “To be a kid who is going through that, and then add on top of that the adults in the room who are supposed to care about you, turning on you. It’s very tough, and I know it adds to their stress and their family’s stress.”

Kelly vetoed a similar bill last year that would have prohibited gender-affirming care for transgender youth, saying in a message that, “By stripping away rights from Kansans and opening the state up to expensive and unnecessary lawsuits, these bill would hurt our ability to continue breaking economic records and landing new business deals.” However, the state Senate passed the measure with a veto-proof majority and the House passed it with a majority, despite the absence of two Republicans who had previously voted in support of the legislation. Last year, Kelly’s veto of a transgender sports ban was also overridden.

“This is the first instance of a state passing a bill to restrict social transitioning within schools, which will prohibit trans kids from being affirmed by their teachers,” LGBTQ legislative researcher Allison Chapman told Truthout. “I’m heartbroken for the kids who will be affected by these extreme laws and for their families who will have to choose if they are going to flee their state in order to protect their child.”

If the bill becomes law, Kansas would become the 24th state in the country, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), to ban best-practice medical care for transgender children. According to findings from the Trevor Project, 86 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth report that the recent discussions surrounding anti-trans bills have had detrimental effects on their mental wellbeing. Notably, an estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ people aged 13 to 24 contemplate suicide each year in the United States.

“While purporting to be about protecting young people, this bill actively harms them and their families — by banning their access to medically necessary, safe, effective, and evidence-based care,” the ACLU of Kansas says in its letter. “That is why every major medical association — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — opposes bills like SB 12 and instead supports access to gender-affirming care.”

Senate Bill 233 would also ban state employees from supporting transgender youth who “social transition,” which includes barring workers from using a transgender minor’s correct pronouns.

“I’m coming to this from both personal and professional experience. I am tired of having this debate,” state Rep. Heather Meyer (D), a parent to a transgender child, said in the House chamber. “With bills like this, you’re taking away their personal autonomy, their freedom to act as a parent.”

On Tuesday, the Kansas legislature also passed an age verification bill that will require residents who visit pornography sites to verify that they are over 18.

LGBTQ advocates have voiced alarm that this bill, which passed with bipartisan support, considers “homosexuality” to be “harmful to minors” and may prevent LGBTQ youth from accessing LGBTQ media content if signed into law.

“In the past two days, Kansas has passed some of the most draconian and restrictive anti-LGBTQ laws for minors in the country,” Chapman said. “Restricting social transition and locking down LGBTQ+ content is an egregious assault on the safety of LGBTQ+ kids in Kansas.”

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