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GOP invokes anti-abortion playbook to fight trans youth health care

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A rash of bills introduced in at least 20 states would limit trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care — and opponents say they echo some of the arguments anti-abortion groups put forth about women’s safety as they attempted to shut down clinics.

Like abortion restrictions, the trans bills would expand states’ power over highly personal medical decisions. Backers of these bills, and groups that have initiated some court cases related to trans health, also make claims about the treatment’s risks — although leading medical associations say that gender-affirming treatment is safe, and that delaying or blocking it can create harm.

“It’s the same cast of characters,” Elizabeth Nash, a policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health and rights. “Religious groups, conservative think tanks, a host of organizations … they are seeking to limit human rights and bodily autonomy.”

HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, the nation's highest-ranking openly trans public official and a pediatrician who specializes in adolescent medicine, said in an interview that the bills are not grounded in science but are “politically based.”

“It’s egregious,” Levine said, adding that medical groups had scrupulously crafted guidelines and that much of the gender-affirming treatment was provided in leading children's hospitals. Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association oppose the state bills.

The tensions over trans rights — from bathrooms, to sports, to health care — have intensified even as the courts and society have grown generally more accepting of gay rights. Most of the bills stalled this year, but supporters plan to reintroduce many of them in 2022 — a year when the conservative Supreme Court will decide a landmark Mississippi abortion case that could overturn or curtail Roe v Wade and when the November congressional elections will determine whether President Joe Biden will retain a Democratic majority in Congress.

“I would expect next year state legislatures to be full of these bills," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU's Center for Liberty which includes programs on reproductive rights and LGBTQ programs. “The same kinds of bills are proposed, and with new variations, in efforts to see what will stick.”

So far, only Tennessee and Arkansas have passed trans legislation — and a federal court has temporarily blocked the more sweeping Arkansas measure, pending a full ruling on the merits of the legal challenge brought by the ACLU.

Other bills, including a proposal in Alabama that made it through the state Senate but too late in the year for the House to act, would have imprisoned doctors for providing such care.

“The primary concern here is the health and well-being of Alabama’s children,” the bill’s sponsor, Shay Shelnutt, told local........

© Politico

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