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Florida board starts process to set rules for transgender care for kids

The medical board’s decision follows a request from Florida’s health department to block treatment for minors with gender dysphoria.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, front left, pictured on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon, Fla. Florida health officials have asked the state medical board to draft new policies that would likely restrict gender dysphoria treatments for transgender youth.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, front left, pictured on Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon, Fla. Florida health officials have asked the state medical board to draft new policies that would likely restrict gender dysphoria treatments for transgender youth. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Aug. 5|Updated Aug. 5

DANIA BEACH — The Florida Board of Medicine on Friday voted to start the process of setting rules for treating transgender minors.

With the exception of Dr. Kevin Cairns, the board members who were present voted during the meeting in favor of starting the rulemaking process. The vote follows a petition from the Florida Department of Health proposing rules that would ban doctors from performing gender-confirming surgeries and prescribing puberty blockers for people under 18 diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Currently, the state has no laws on gender-transition treatment. The 15-member medical board, appointed by the governor, can establish standards of care for medical practices through a rule-making process and can discipline doctors for violating its regulations.

Related: What’s next in Florida’s bid to restrict transition care for transgender kids

Dr. Michael Haller, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Florida, said that medical institutions like the American Academy of Pediatrics have established a standard of care which dictates, for example, that puberty blockers should not be given to prepubertal children, that mastectomies should only be offered to children 16 and older, and that genital surgeries should only be offered to people 18 and above.

“This has been pushed to you, the board, as a political maneuver,” Haller said of the health department’s petition. “Trans people have always existed. They will always exist. Whether you choose to acknowledge (them) doesn’t change that.”

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who has previously advocated for rules banning gender-confirming surgery and hormones for minors, offered support for the Department of Health’s petition at the start of Friday’s discussion at the Marriott Fort Lauderdale Airport.

Related: Florida report on transgender care flawed, politically motivated, Yale experts say

“Puberty is such an elaborate and confusing time,” Ladapo said. “On the safety, again, it is incontrovertible. There clearly is a level of risk with these procedures, both the hormone therapy and hormone blockers for individuals who are in puberty, and for the surgical interventions.”

The nearly three-hour public comment period, which board chair Dr. David Diamond inexplicably cut short by an hour, ended with crowd members chanting “shame” at the board. Security ousted at least one person who attempted to speak after the public comment period ended.

“You’re lapdogs for the governor,” one man yelled before exiting the conference room. “The surgeon general is a lapdog.”

A day earlier, Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren after the area’s top prosecutor signed letters saying he would not enforce laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors or those limiting abortion.

Following Friday’s medical board vote, the Department of Health will initiate rulemaking workshops with dates and locations to be determined.

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Board member Dr. Patrick Hunter said he voted in favor of rulemaking in part because he doesn’t think the Department of Health’s proposed rules are nuanced enough.

“It sends a message that these kids don’t need care, and they do,” Hunter said. “The question is, what is the best care?

“I heard that there’s only one route to a trans identity,” he added, “and that’s being born that way.”

Related: As DeSantis focuses on Florida transgender kids, here’s what you need to know
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