Kansas lawmakers’ decision to reject a ban on gender-affirming care safeguards the rights of patients and providers

Supporters of transgender rights gathered at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka on May 5, 2023, to show their solidarity. The rally, which saw an impressive turnout, aimed to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of transgender individuals. The event was a powerful display of unity and support for the transgender community in Kansas.

In late March, the Kansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 233, also known as the Forbidding Abusive Child Transitions Act, and sent it to Governor Laura Kelly for her signature. I had the opportunity to witness the testimony surrounding this bill, where families and medical experts from our own state emphasized to the lawmakers the negative impact that restricting, or even prohibiting, essential medical care would have on our transgender youth. This group is already vulnerable to depression and bullying, and such measures would only exacerbate their challenges.

During the proceedings, I observed the individuals advocating for the bill, who shared inaccurate information regarding the potential for regret after transitioning. It was notable that these proponents were not local residents, but instead activists who frequently testify in various states in support of legislation that restricts gender-affirming care.

On April 25, Kelly decided to veto the bill, which was then brought back to the House and Senate for override votes on April 29. While the Senate overturned the veto, the House narrowly sustained it after careful deliberation and extensive debate. I also witnessed some of the discussions, where impassioned appeals were made to prioritize the mental health of these children and to grant parents the freedom to make healthcare decisions, guided by medical professionals and therapists, without interference from the government.

The bill aimed at the licenses and malpractice insurance of practitioners providing gender-affirming care, and it subjected them to civil prosecution until the patient reaches the age of 28.

Medical treatment for gender dysphoria, including the use of puberty blockers and hormones, is subject to significant concern in this bill, despite the fact that these approaches are accompanied by appropriate informed consent for both the parents and the patient. What makes the bill even more concerning is its restriction on state employees’ support for “social transitioning” (such as manner of dress, chosen name, chosen pronouns) and mental health care for transgender children.

Transition surgery was part of the ban proposal; however, it has been clarified that medical centers in Kansas do not carry out gender reassignment surgery on minors. This bill would have exposed healthcare facilities in Kansas to potential legal consequences, resulting in the closure of clinics and the denial of care to vulnerable children across the state.

As a practicing high-risk obstetrician who provides care to transgender patients, I believe that the veto was the appropriate response.

But the story doesn’t end there. I want to share an additional detail with the readers of Kansas Reflector.

Trans men and trans women in our state face severe discrimination, including threats to their lives, families, and property. Shockingly, these threats have now extended to state representatives who voted against overturning the veto, thereby preventing the passage of this oppressive and inhumane bill. It is worth noting that the anti-trans group “Libs of TikTok” has specifically targeted lawmakers who stood up against party lines to support the veto.

Lawmakers regularly receive messages and emails that label them as sick, evil, and despicable. While these messages may cause them to feel threatened, it is important to consider the constant fear experienced by our transgender children and their families on a daily basis.

As physicians, we have a responsibility to provide our patients with the utmost level of medical care. As for non-physicians, I would prefer that legislators refrain from practicing medicine and obstructing the counseling and treatment provided by empathetic professionals. Furthermore, it is my belief that our legislators should not face threats for attentively listening to the concerns of their constituents and voting according to their conscience in order to oppose a bill that is excessively broad, intrusive, and potentially harmful.

Elizabeth Wickstrom, a resident of Prairie Village, is a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. Kansas Reflector, through its opinion section, aims to give a platform to individuals impacted by public policies or marginalized in public discussions. For more details, including guidelines on submitting your own commentary, please visit here.

Lawmakers in Kansas have made a significant move by rejecting a ban on gender-affirming care. This decision is crucial as it ensures the protection of both patients and healthcare providers in the state. The rejection of this ban reflects a progressive stance towards prioritizing the well-being and rights of transgender individuals. Kansas Reflector appreciates this positive development and recognizes the impact it will have on the local community.

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