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Bill seeks to prohibit surgical gender transitions for Missouri minors

by Ella McCarthy | March 24, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
State Sen. Mike Moon, Republican from Missouri's 29th District, addresses a gathering under the arched ceiling of the second floor hallway of the Missouri Capitol Monday, Feb. 7, 2022. (Julie Smith/News Tribune photo)

With testimony Wednesday from witnesses as young as 8 years old, a bill that would prohibit medical and surgical gender transition procedures for minors was opposed by many at a Senate hearing.

Senate Bill 843, sponsored by Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, would establish the "Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act."

If passed, the act would prohibit physicians and health care providers from providing medical or surgical gender transitional procedures to a minor and from referring a minor to another health care provider for such a procedure. It also prohibits any public funds from going toward such services.

"Some may say the government should not restrict a minor's ability to do irreversible harm to their bodies simply to satisfy a desire," Moon said. "Currently, we don't allow minors to purchase cigarettes ... purchase alcohol ... skydive, rent a car, create a will, sign a contract; they can't vote.

"The brain does not mature completely until at age 24," he said. "We're talking about minor children under the age of 18."

The prohibitions in the bill would not apply to: those who have medically verifiable disorders of sex development; treatment or any infection, injury, disease or disorder caused or exacerbated by gender transition procedures; or procedures undertaken because the minor suffers from a condition that would place him or her in imminent danger or death or impairment of a major bodily function unless surgery is performed, according to the current bill summary.

Parents, doctors, religious leaders and many concerned minors testified in opposition to the bill at Wednesday's hearing.

"Throughout the lifespan of transgender care, mental health management is one of the most crucial aspects," said Christopher Lewis, pediatric endocrinologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital. "Access to gender affirming care, including hormonal intervention, is also an important part to ensure medical and mental health outcomes are optimized."

Lewis is the medical director for the Transgender Center and the Differences of Sex Development Clinic at St. Louis Children's Hospital. During his testimony, he noted there are no hormonal or surgical options available for any pre-pubertal youth; the only options available are psychosocial support and mental health exploration.

"Hormones such as estrogen or testosterone are only available in later adolescence, again, with strict eligibility and readiness criteria, letters of support and consent from all legal guardians," Lewis said at the hearing, adding that while there are some irreversible changes, they take many years to develop and are mimicking the same biological puberty that already occurs in other individuals.

"Options for surgical interventions are not explored or offered to individuals below the age of 18," Lewis added.

Concerned parents shared their fear of the ramifications SB 843 would have if made law, and preventative measures they have taken to protect their children.

"After our child came out to us, we met parents of other transgender kids who educated us on the fight that is required to make sure that your child can be their true selves," Nick Zingarelli, a parent, said. "Publishing these bills causes stress; dignifying these bills with public hearings causes stress; we can no longer subject our child and ourselves to this stress, and we have decided to move out of Missouri."

Some pre-teen witnesses also shared their stories at Wednesday's hearing.

"This is not the first I'm here trying to convince people to let me be myself," a 10-year-old transgender boy said to the committee. "Please stop taking away my choices. There are lots of medical people who have talked to me about this and made sure that I understand that this is my choice.

"My parents and doctors are not harming me," he added. "This bill will harm me."

His 8-year-old sister also testified at the hearing.

"My brother's a trans-boy; I love my brother," she said to the committee. "Please don't hurt him."

Though lacking in numbers compared to those testifying in opposition of the bill, a few shared their support for SB 843 at the public hearing.

"It seems very reasonable to make it unlawful for a child under the age of 18 to undergo gender reassignment surgery or hormonal treatments," said Jennifer Gore, of Concerned Women for America.

Moon noted that due to the timing of the hearing, some expert witnesses could not be there to testify.

Wednesday's public hearing was the first on SB 843. Similar legislation was filed in the 2021 and 2020 legislative session.

Click the link below ito read the full bill:

• SB 843: Modifies provisions relating to gender reassignment treatment for children

Sponsor: Sen. Mike Moon


Print Headline: Bill seeks to prohibit surgical gender transitions for minors


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