Story at a glance
- An Oklahoma bill set to be considered during a special session of the state legislature on Thursday would prevent money granted to the University Hospitals Authority under the American Rescue Plan Act from being given to facilities that provide gender-affirming health care to minors.
- The University of Oklahoma Medical Center on Wednesday said it would stop offering certain gender-affirming medical treatments in response to the bill.
- More than a dozen state legislatures — including in Oklahoma — have introduced measures this year to ban or heavily restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for minors.
Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday are expected to consider a bill to prohibit the state’s largest health care provider from using federal funds to administer gender-affirming health care to transgender minors.
Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled legislature returned for a special session on Wednesday to appropriate the state’s $1.87 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, introducing a measure that would prevent money granted to the University Hospitals Authority from being used for “gender reassignment medical treatment” given to patients younger than 18.
That includes interventions such as puberty blockers, hormones and other medical therapies used to treat gender dysphoria, according to the bill authored by Oklahoma Reps. Kevin Wallace (R) and Ryan Martinez (R) and Sens. Roger Thompson (R) and Chuck Hall (R).
More than a dozen states — including Oklahoma — have introduced measures this year to ban or heavily restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for minors. Hospitals and other medical facilities that provide transgender health care to patients younger than 18 have recently been targeted in a string of right-wing attacks on social media that allege physicians are abusing children.
On Wednesday, the University of Oklahoma (OU) Medical Center in a statement to The Associated Press said it planned to halt some gender-affirming medical treatments in response to the proposed bill, which would withhold millions of dollars set aside for hospitals providing pediatric behavioral health care if those hospitals also provide gender-affirming care to minors.
“The OU Health Senior Leadership team is proactively planning the ceasing of certain gender medicine services across our facilities and that plan is already under development,” OU Health said in the statement. A spokeswoman declined to say which services would no longer be offered.
Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health currently offers gender-affirming medical care for patients up to 24 years old, including puberty blockers, hormones, individual and family therapy and help finding gender-affirming surgeons, according to its website.
The Oklahoma bill has been criticized by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups for going against the recommendations of physicians and major medical associations, which have said that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and often life-saving.
“These important decisions should be left to young people, their families, and their medical providers – not the government,” Vivian Topping, the director of advocacy and civic engagement at the Equality Federation, a social justice organization, said Wednesday in a statement.
Topping accused the bill of being part of a coordinated effort by Republicans to restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.
“We won’t stand for it,” she said.
Nationwide, state lawmakers this year have introduced hundreds of measures that target the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth. In August, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced federal legislation that would make it a felony — punishable by up to 25 years in prison — to provide gender-affirming health care to a minor.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July pledged to bring up a bill that prohibits transgender women and girls from competing on female sports teams if Republicans win the House majority in November — a promise he reiterated last week in his “Commitment to America” plan, which outlines House Republicans’ top priorities for the year.
In March, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed into law the state’s transgender athlete ban, becoming the fourth state to enact such a policy this year. Others have since followed suit, bringing the nationwide total to 18, according to the Movement Advancement Project.