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Another Attempt to Ban Gender-Affirming Surgery for Minors Approved for Consideration in Upcoming Utah Legislative Session – State of Reform

On Wednesday, Utah’s Interim Health and Human Services Committee voted 12 to 5 in favor of advancing law Project which proposes a statewide ban on surgical procedures for minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

The legislator has not adopted any similar invoice earlier this year it would have blocked both gender reassignment surgery and the use of hormone therapy or puberty blockers on minors.

In September, the committee passed 2 motions to open committee bills, one on surgical care for transgender children and the other on other non-surgical medical care such as hormone blockers and hormone therapies for transgender children.

Wednesday’s meeting considered the first of these two proposals. Before the vote, committee chairman and sponsor of the bill, Sen. Michael Kennedy (R – Lindon) cited recommendations to delay gender-affirming genital surgery until the age of 18 in his opening remarks, arguing that the ban would serve as a protective mechanism for such children.

“The proof of whether or not [gender-affirming surgery] actually does what we hope it does for these people is weak,” Kennedy said during the hearing. “It’s available, but it’s weak. All I’m asking is that we think about what a new treatment is before opening it up to anything anyone wants to do.

The state does not currently prohibit cosmetic procedures such as breast reduction and breast augmentation surgeries for minors. But according to the draft proposal, these procedures would be prohibited if they were associated with a change of sex for minors.

Several committee members expressed concerns about the constitutionality of the proposal. The committee’s general counsel confirmed that the legislation opens up the risk of constitutional litigation by targeting a sex-based classification of transgender status.

State policy has targeted transgender youth this year. The legislature passed House Bill 11, which prohibits transgender girls from participating in school sports. In August, the Third District Court issued an injunction against the ban and the ACLU filed a complaint against the Utah High Schools Athletic Association.

State Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost (D – Salt Lake City), who cast one of the dissenting votes on Wednesday, criticized the ban and said during the hearing that the state legislature does not should not fit into the health care of legitimate patients seeking medical care.

Speaking to State of Reform after the hearing, Dailey-Provost said her main concerns with the bill were that it targets transgender children, a vulnerable population, and inserts lawmakers into medical decisions.

“It is unconstitutional to say that this specific category of people has the right to access health care, and that this other specific category of people does not have the right to the same health care,” Dailey-Provost said. “It is blatantly unconstitutional. Not to mention the cruelty. It’s a decision for patients, for parents and their health care providers, and that’s where it should stay.

With the split approval of the interim committee, a Senate committee will hold a hearing on the proposal during next year’s legislative session to decide whether it will go forward as a bill.

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