© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Parson signs into law restrictions on transgender youth health care and sports

The 9-year-old son of Daniel and Karen Bogard, pictured at his St. Louis County home on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, is one of the transgender Missourians who has been targeted by anti-trans policies, rhetoric, and legislation.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The 9-year-old son of Daniel and Karen Bogard, pictured at his St. Louis County home on March 22, is one of the transgender Missourians who could be affected by new restrictions.

Gov. Mike Parson has signed into law two bills that place restrictions on transgender Missourians receiving health care and playing sports.

“We support everyone's right to his or her own pursuit of happiness; however, we must protect children from making life-altering decisions that they could come to regret in adulthood once they have physically and emotionally matured,” Parson said.

Parson had threatened to call a special session earlier in the year if the legislature did not pass these restrictions, making his decision to sign them Wednesday unsurprising.

One of the laws bars transgender youth under the age of 18 from accessing certain gender-affirming care like puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender transition surgery.

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. Doctors say it’s rare for minors to undergo any form of transition-related surgery before the age of 18.

Proponents of the legislation repeatedly said the bill was about protecting children from making decisions they are not old enough to make.

Oponents, who included transgender minors, say that decision should be left to trans youth, their guardians and their doctors.

“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. The governor could have said ‘no’ to bigotry and hate. Instead he embraced it,” said House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield. “History tends to reflect poorly on oppression and the oppressors, and the stain of this action will not wash away.”

The legislation also bars Medicaid from covering surgeries, hormone treatment and puberty blockers meant “for the purpose of a gender transition.” That provision applies to both transgender minors and adults.

The other law signed by Parson bars transgender athletes from participating on school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity through the collegiate level. It also applies to public, charter and private schools.

Republicans repeatedly brought up the issue of fairness in sports when speaking in favor of the legislation.

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

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

Missouri follows other GOP-led states in passing similar legislation. However, for the bills to pass the Missouri Senate, where they faced strong opposition and a filibuster from Senate Democrats, some compromise language was included.

The law on gender-affirming health care includes language that exempts minors already receiving gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone treatment, from the ban.

Additionally, part of the health care restrictions as well as the entirety of the sports participation law are set to expire in four years, which means that Senate Democrats could filibuster any attempt to reauthorize the legislation.

“When these bills expire in four years, I plan on being there to make sure they never come back,” said Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, the only openly gay member of the Senate. “During that time, people will have a better understanding of their transgender friends, neighbors, and family members, and they will see these bills for what they truly are: a desperate, calculated political game using a dangerous expansion of government to target people who just want to live their lives.”

PROMO, a group that advocates for LGBTQ rights, pointed out in a statement that Parson’s signing of these bills comes in June, which is Pride month.

“After 5½ months of the Missouri General Assembly outright attacking the rights of LGBTQ+ Missourians, it comes as no surprise Gov. Parson chose Pride month, our moment of collective joy, to affirmatively take away our rights,” Shira Berkowitz of PROMO said.

Both laws go into effect on Aug. 28.

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