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Maryland Senate Passes Bill That Would Codify Access to Gender-Affirming Care

“This is an incredibly strong law and I urge the Maryland House to swiftly pass this measure,” one LGBTQ+ advocate said.

The Maryland Statehouse is pictured in Annapolis, Maryland.

The Maryland state Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that would protect patients who seek gender-affirming care in the state from any criminal, civil, or administrative actions, even if such records are sought in investigations originating from other states. The measure, SB 0119, received a 33-13 vote in favor from the Democrat-controlled Senate and now moves to the state House.

“If passed, this bill would not only protect providers from criminal and civil suits due to laws in other states, but would also protect the healthcare information of patients within the state of Maryland,” LGBTQ+ legislative researcher Allison Chapman told Truthout.

According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), Maryland is already one of 14 states — and D.C. — that have implemented “shield laws” that protect access to gender-affirming care. In June, Democratic Gov. Wes Moore issued an executive order aimed at safeguarding individuals who either receive or provide gender-affirming care in Maryland against legal or disciplinary actions instigated by other states. The legislation approved by the Senate would codify these protections into Maryland state law.

“Transgender people’s access to best-practice health care — sometimes also called gender-affirming care — is increasingly under attack,” MAP says on its website. “These ‘shield’ or ‘refuge’ laws can vary from one state to the next, but their primary goal is to protect transgender people, their families, and their medical providers against these ongoing attacks and to protect access to transgender-related health care.”

In response to states imposing restrictions and bans on abortion care, Maryland enacted a law last year to safeguard abortion rights within the state. SB 0119 would include gender-affirming care as a form of protected health care within the existing statute.

“This legislation simply adds gender-affirming treatment to what is already in statute as legally protected health care, legally protected health care that we placed into statute last year to ensure that women that need abortions can have privacy in their own medical records from being transferred out of state or being accessed by out of state entities,” Clarence Lam (D) said.

Twenty-two states currently have restricted or banned gender-affirming care for transgender youth, according to MAP. As a result, numerous transgender youth and their families have been compelled to seek care in other states or even flee from their home states entirely. Laws like SB 0119 would protect transgender youth and their families from investigations originating from their home states.

“For example, if a person travels from a state where transgender healthcare is banned and receives that care in another state, a ‘shield’ law can protect the recipient and/or provider of that healthcare against civil or criminal charges from the state where healthcare is banned,” MAP explains on its website.

Last November, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton demanded private information concerning transgender patients from Texas who accessed gender-affirming care at clinics in Georgia and Seattle. These requests spurred a lawsuit from one clinic and elicited outcry from LGBTQ activists. “Republicans are attempting to investigate and potentially arrest people across state lines for providing trans care,” transgender journalist and activist Erin Reed said on social media in November.

SB 0119 would protect transgender youth who access gender-affirming care in the state from such investigations.

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been on a rampage requesting patient data from clinics across the country in an apparent attempt to gather massive amounts of data on trans people, this law will prevent that from happening in Maryland,” Chapman told Truthout. “This is an incredibly strong law and I urge the Maryland House to swiftly pass this measure.”

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