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Missouri governor signs laws restricting health care and sports for transgender residents

Closeup photo of a cardboard sign in a crowd that reads "Trans and Proud."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Marchers in Kansas City protest with students from Crossroads Preparatory Academy on April 13, 2022 who walked out of class to protest anti-LGBTQ bills in the Missouri legislature.

One law bans minors and incarcerated Missourians from accessing puberty blockers, hormones or gender-affirming surgeries — all treatments that are widely supported by mainstream medical groups. Those under 18 who have already begun treatment may continue their regimens. The second law prohibits transgender athletes from competing in sports that align with their gender identity.

A week into Pride month, Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation Wednesday banning minors from beginning gender-affirming care and limiting sports participation for transgender athletes.

In a press release announcing his decision to sign the bills, Parson said he supports every person’s right to “his or her own pursuit of happiness.”

However, he continued, “we must protect children from making life-altering decisions that they could come to regret in adulthood once they have physically and emotionally matured.”

Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, sponsored the bill banning minors’ access to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender-affirming surgeries. After a compromise, his legislation was amended in the Senate to sunset the ban on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones after four years.

Those under 18 who have already begun treatment may stay on their doctor-approved regimens.

The law will take effect Aug. 28.

Parson argues the bill protects “Missouri children from harmful, irreversible treatments and procedures.

“These decisions have permanent consequences for life and should not be made by impressionable children who may be in crisis or influenced by the political persuasions of others.”

A man wearing a suit talks and gestures from a glass podium in front of a giant projection screen that shows part of a yellow sheriff's badge an the large white letters NS.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Gov. Mike Parson addresses the National Sheriffs' Association annual convention in June 2022 inside the Kansas City Convention Center

The law will also prohibit Missouri’s Medicaid program MO HealthNet from paying for cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers or gender-affirming surgeries. The current MO HealthNet handbook already states it will not cover gender-affirming surgeries or cosmetic procedures, like hair transplants. It does not mention hormones or puberty blockers.

Incarcerated Missourians will be unable to receive gender-affirming surgeries while in state custody, according to the legislation.

Parson also signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Scott City, pitched by supporters as an effort to “protect women’s sports” by mandating athletes’ participation to their sex as assigned at birth.

Since 2012, the Missouri State High School Activities Association has permitted 12 transgender student athletes to compete according to their gender identity.

Conflicting with NCAA policy, the legislation also prohibits college athletes from competing according to their gender identity.

“Women and girls deserve and have fought for an equal opportunity to succeed,” Parson said, “and with this legislation today, we stand up to the nonsense and stand with them as they take back their sport competitions.”

The legislative efforts, and a now-withdrawn emergency order from the Missouri attorney general, has pushed some LGBTQ+ families in Missouri to move, or consider moving, out of state.

“The governor had a chance to protect innocent families who are just trying to live their lives in peace. Instead he chose to persecute them,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said in a statement. “The governor could have said ‘no’ to bigotry and hate. Instead, he embraced it.”

“History tends to reflect poorly on oppression and the oppressors, and the stain of this action will not wash away,” said Quade, who is openly considering a run for governor next year.

Kansas City and St. Louis signed local orders to combat the effects of state legislation. Springfield recently announced a resolution for Pride month.

“Missouri Republicans in the legislature have now given the government new power to control people they’ve never met, over an issue they don’t understand,” said Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City. “When these bills expire in four years, I plan on being there to make sure they never come back.”

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.

Annelise Hanshaw covers education for the Missouri Independent — a beat she has held on both the East and West Coast prior to joining the Missouri Independent staff. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.
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