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A Florida House panel advances a measure to block gender-affirming care for minors

 Bill sponsor Rep. Ralph Massullo
Florida House of Representatives
Bill sponsor Rep. Ralph Massullo

A Florida House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping measure that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors, including children already receiving treatment such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy.

The proposal (HB 1421), approved in a 12-5 vote by the House Healthcare Regulatory Subcommittee, also would ban health insurance companies from covering gender-affirming surgeries for transgender people.

Bill sponsor Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, equated gender-affirming care for children with child abuse.

“This is not care. This is an abomination,” Fine told the panel. “It is not health care to cut someone’s body parts off.”

But Will Larkins, a Winter Park High School senior who is nonbinary, told lawmakers it would be cruel to force children already receiving treatment to detransition.

“You will kill them. I am telling you right now, look me in the eyes, you will kill them if you pass this bill,” Larkins warned.

The Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine recently adopted rules that ban doctors from ordering puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgery for children under age 18, but the regulations include exceptions for minors already receiving the treatment.

Under the proposal approved Wednesday, children would be prohibited from using puberty blockers or hormones after Dec. 31. The House bill also would make it a felony for physicians to order gender-affirming care for minors.

In addition, the measure would create a cause of action in civil lawsuits for deaths or injuries from what the legislation calls “gender clinical interventions.” The bill would allow people to seek damages for injuries up to 30 years after procedures and five years after deaths.

The treatments are provided for people with 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.”

Many major medical associations in the U.S. support gender-affirming care for people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Proponents of the treatment argue that it is medically necessary, effective and safe.

Florida is among a number of Republican-led states considering or passing policies to restrict medical treatment for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria and to make it more difficult for trans adults to obtain care.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, chided Republicans on the House panel Wednesday for rejecting an amendment that would have allowed children already receiving treatment to continue to do so.

“Everyone supports parental rights, but I really feel that we only support those parental rights that align with the philosophy of the majority of this House,” Bartleman said. “The hardest pill for me to swallow with this bill is the inhumanity of not grandfathering individuals who had been receiving care for four or five years. It is inhumane and devastating to do that to somebody.”

The measure also would require doctors to receive consent for treatment from trans adults. Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican who is helping sponsor the bill, argued that it would not limit access to health care for trans adults.

“We’re making sure that they have health care in a safe fashion,” Massullo, a dermatologist, said. “The fact that we’re not allowing insurance to pay for these type procedures is because we feel that they should be included as a cosmetic-type procedure and not necessarily a procedure that would improve their health.”

The bill needs to be approved by the House Health & Human Services Committee, which is chaired by Fine, before it could go to the full House.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee is scheduled to consider a similar measure (SB 254) on Thursday. That bill is not as far-reaching as the House version. If the Senate bill is approved by the committee, it would be ready to go to the full Senate.

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