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Missouri House passes restrictions on youth access to gender-affirming health care

House Speaker Dean Plocher stands at a podium and speaks into a microphone. Plocher wears a navy suits and a yellow tie that has little Missouri outlines on it.
Tim Bommel
House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, speaks to media on Thursday after the House passed legislation that restricts transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care. To the right is Rep. Brad Hudson, R-Cape Fair, the bill's sponsor.

The Republican-led Missouri House passed legislation Thursday that restricts health care for transgender minors.

House members voted 103-52 to pass a bill that prohibits transgender youth under 18 from having gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

The House did not take up legislation barring transgender athletes in grades six and up from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity. That vote is scheduled for Monday.

Speaking after the vote, House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said he was immensely proud of his caucus.

“We have continued to progress towards a resolution of helping Missourians [and] protecting children,” Plocher said.

The no votes included all Democrats present as well as two Republicans, Rep. Chris Sander, R-Lone Jack, and House Floor Leader Rep. Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit.

Patterson said he voted against the bill because he wished there was some flexibility for specific cases that could come up.

Democrats again protested the bill. One of those lawmakers was Rep. Barbara Phifer of Kirkwood.

“There is no place else my grandson would rather be than in Missouri. But the cold hard fact that he does not yet understand is that you all, and I will say you all, don't want him,” Phifer said.

The legislation is stricter than the bill passed by the Senate a few weeks ago. There is no expiration date on the ban of puberty blockers and hormone treatment. There is also no clause that would allow transgender youth that are currently receiving medical treatment, to continue to get it.

It also stops Medicaid payments from going toward gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

The passage of the bill came the same day that Attorney General Andrew Baileyreleased details of an emergency rule seeking to make it harder for transgender children to access certain medical procedures. The rule is slated to go into effect on April 27 and expire on Feb. 6, 2024, once it is filed with the secretary of state.

The House bill on transgender health care now goes to the Missouri Senate, where its future is uncertain.

Speaking Thursday after adjournment, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said that since senators have already passed a bill on this issue, they want the House to pass that one.

“We would expect the House to appreciate how hard and difficult it was and to take up our bill and pass it,” Rowden said.

While Rowden said no bill is “dead until it’s dead,” he added that an easier way for the legislature to wrap up the issue would be to pass the Senate version.

Senate Democrats said last month that keeping access open for trans kids currently receiving care was a priority for them during negotiations.

Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, whose party spent hours negotiating the legislation before ending a filibuster, said without the expiration date or the grandfather clause, the bill would be a nonstarter for Senate Democrats.

The Senate bills restricting gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and limiting transgender athletes’ from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity passed out of a House committee on Thursday.

They remain unchanged for now, including the provisions added by the Senate.

Plocher said while he believes the House version is better, he would not rule out passing the Senate bills.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said her caucus is looking for a different bill entirely.

“What we're looking for is something to stop what is happening and ensure that doctors are able to provide the care to their patients that their parents and them think is what's best for them. And so whatever bill that looks like, that is what we're aiming for,” Quade said.

If the House were to pass the Senate bills and not change them, they would then go to Gov. Mike Parson.

Fox 2 News’ Emily Manley contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this report misidentified where Rep. Chris Sander lives. He represents Lone Jack in the Missouri House.

Sarah Kellogg has been the Missouri Statehouse and politics reporter for St. Louis Public Radio since 2021.

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