Floridians will soon get another chance to weigh in on the state’s pending ban on medical treatment for transgender children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. But it’s unlikely that the proposed restrictions will change significantly as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has taken aim at this issue.
A public hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 10 in Tallahassee. LGBTQ advocates are expected to attend and oppose the restrictions, which were approved by the Florida Board of Medicine and Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine in November.
The pending rules are at odds with existing treatment standards that have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among other major medical organizations.
After the ban begins, doctors in the state who continue to prescribe puberty blockers, hormone therapy or surgeries to treat gender dysphoria among new patients younger than 18 could lose their licenses.
It’s still unclear when the ban will take effect, but it could be as early as mid-March, said Simone Chriss, director of the Transgender Rights Initiative at Southern Legal Counsel, a Gainesville nonprofit law firm.
The hearing next month may be the final chance for residents to comment on the planned restrictions, Chriss said. Based on feedback from the hearing, the medical boards could tweak the rules or keep them as is.
For now, there’s no specific date for when the ban is expected to take effect, a Florida Department of Health spokesperson said.
Gender dysphoria is defined as strong, persistent feelings of identifying with another gender and significant discomfort and distress with the one assigned at birth.
The proposed restrictions on puberty blockers and hormone therapy won’t apply to children already being prescribed those medications. They will be grandfathered in, though it’s unclear if the clinics treating them will continue to do so.
The Board of Osteopathic Medicine will also let physicians it regulates, who focus on holistic health, prescribe puberty blockers and hormone therapy to new patients under the age of 18 who enroll in clinical trials at Florida medical schools. That’s as long as those studies have been approved by an institutional review board, which is a university committee that reviews whether research is ethical.
The Board of Medicine rejected the same carve-out for medical doctors, who vastly outnumber osteopathic physicians in Florida.
Southern Legal Counsel plans to sue the state over the ban, Chriss said.
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The law firm and other groups filed a lawsuit last September challenging a state rule that bans Medicaid coverage of gender dysphoria treatment. That case is ongoing.
DeSantis, who is widely expected to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024, has focused on restricting medical care for transgender people.
Last year, the DeSantis administration urged the state medical boards to ban such care for youth and prohibited individuals from using Medicaid to cover the costs of gender dysphoria treatment.
Earlier this month, the governor’s budget office requested information from public universities on services they provide to transgender people seeking care.
And in December, DeSantis appointed two doctors to the Board of Medicine and a physician to the Board of Osteopathic Medicine who appear to have publicly opposed what’s known as gender-affirming treatment for children.
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How to attend the hearing
What: Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine public hearing
Where: Department of Transportation Auditorium, Burns Building, 605 Suwannee St., Tallahassee
When: 1 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10
Written public comments can also be submitted to the medical boards until 5 p.m. Feb. 7 at: BOMPublicComment@flhealth.gov.