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Missouri House advances restrictions on gender-affirming health care and transgender athletes

Members of the Missouri House of Representatives mingle on Jan. 4 before the start of the legislative session at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives, pictured in January, gave overwhelming initial approval to youth transgender restrictions Tuesday.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval Tuesday to a pair of bills limiting health care and sports participation for transgender youth in the state.

Members of the Republican-led House approved legislation that bars transgender children who are under 18 from accessing gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone treatments. The vote was 106-45.

Two Republicans, Rep. Chris Sander, R-Lone Jack, and House Floor Leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, voted against the bill. The other no votes were from Democrats.

The House also gave initial approval to legislation that bars transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that align with their gender identity.

That bill would apply to public and charter schools from grade six through 12. It would also apply to public and private postsecondary education institutions. House members voted 107-41 on that bill. Two of the nos were from Republicans Sander and Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon. One Democrat, Rep. Alan Gray, D-St. Louis, voted yes.

Both bills need another vote before moving to the Missouri Senate.

Rep. Brad Hudson, R-Cape Fair, sponsor of the legislation on gender-affirming health care, said the bill is about protecting children.

The legislation was amended to reflect some of the language included in the Senate version.

However, the biggest Senate additions, an expiration date on the ban on some of those treatments like hormones and puberty blockers, as well as allowing transgender kids already receiving that treatment to continue getting it, were not included.

Instead, Hudson said supporters are aiming for a six-month window to stop trans kids from being on those treatments.

“That's a reasonable off-ramp for children that are on some of these drugs. We want to get them off of those as quickly as possible,” Hudson said.

Speaking after the passage of the Senate bill three weeks ago, Senate President Caleb Rowden said he hoped the House would realize how difficult it was for the Senate to pass the version it did.

Gender-affirming care includes medical and mental health care treatments as well as social support.

The practice is supported by multiple medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

Rep. Ashley Aune, D-Kansas City, one of the many Democrats who spoke against the bill, read on the House floor comments from a transgender child and her parents. The child wrote that the care she received is lifesaving.

“These are the kids that you are legislating. This is a human being with feelings and a family who loves her deeply and who wants her to be here and knows that without this care she might not be here,” Aune said. “Y'all hold a supermajority in this state. Stop punching down.”

Republicans who spoke in support of the legislation repeatedly used the ages of trans kids as a reason to delay transition-related health care.

“This bill is about protecting children under 18 and giving them their freedom to choose their paths once they do turn 18,” said Rep. Cyndi Buchheit-Courtway, R-Festus.

Rep. Jamie Johnson, D-Kansas City, spoke to the families that have repeatedly traveled to Jefferson City to speak against the legislation.

“I just want to say to those families who are in this body, who will be impacted by this legislation, I am so proud of your kids for coming here to fight for their existence and their right to exist in this state,” Johnson said.

House members spent more than two hours debating the legislation barring transition-related health care. Members were allowed less than 30 minutes to debate the bill barring transgender athletes from participating in sport teams that align with their gender identity.

Similar to the other House bill, the legislation does not contain the expiration date of four years that’s included in the Senate version.

Rep. Jamie Burger, R-Benton, who sponsored the bill, said it was the right thing to do to address fairness in sports.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association already has guidelines on sports participation for transgender athletes, as does the NCAA for college sports.

Shortly after the House adjourned after voting to give first-round approval to both bills, members of the House General Laws committee met to hear testimony on the Senate bills addressing the same topics. It’s unclear when the full House will consider those bills.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.