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Missouri terminates controversial rule limiting gender-affirming care

Missouri has terminated a controversial emergency rule targeting transgender care in that state that was met with litigation. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Missouri has terminated a controversial emergency rule targeting transgender care in that state that was met with litigation. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

May 17 (UPI) -- Missouri has terminated a controversial emergency rule that would have greatly limited access to gender-affirming healthcare in the state.

The rule was terminated Tuesday, according to a brief notice published on the website of Missouri Secretary of State John Ashcroft.

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UPI has contacted Ashcroft's office for comment.

Promulgated last month by Missouri's Republican attorney general, Andrew Bailey, the rule placed restrictions on gender-affirming care by clarifying state laws to prohibit such medical treatment by arguing it is "experimental."

Some of the requirements that were to be applied to gender-affirming care included mandating at least 18 months of therapy, a comprehensive screening for autism and three years of documented proof of a "long-lasting, persistent and intense pattern of gender dysphoria" before a patient could receive treatment.

Minors seeking such medical care were also to receive an annual comprehensive screening for social media addiction and compulsion.

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Bailey had said the new rule was needed to protect children from what he described as experimental medicine, despite leading medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, supporting the administration of gender-affirming care.

After it was promulgated, the rule was met with litigation, and a circuit court judge in St. Louis County early this month issued a temporary restraining order against it that ended Monday.

The reason for the rule's termination was not made public, but state House minority leader Crystal Quade, a Democrat, accused Bailey on Tuesday of having "grossly overstepped his legal authority."

"It isn't surprising he withdrew his unconstitutional rule knowing another embarrassing court defeat was inevitable," Quade said in a statement. "Missourians deserve an attorney general worthy of the office, not one who persecutes innocent Missourians for political gain."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri also celebrated the termination of the rule Tuesday as Bailey having "finally joined everyone else in recognizing that his hasty attempt to usurp other branches of government cannot withstand scrutiny.

"His transparently faux concern for trans youth could not mask that his willingness to abuse his office in an attempt to erase from public all transgender Missourians," the civil rights organization said in a statement. "Today's actions are a victory for Missourians' right to bodily autonomy, but the fight is not over."

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The rule was issued as his office initiated an investigation into a St. Louis pediatric transgender center where an employee said they had witnessed an array of mistreatment. The Washington University Transgender Center said that it has conducted a review following the allegations and that "physicians and staff at the center follow appropriate policies and procedures and treat patients according to the accepted standards of care."

The termination of the rule also comes a week after the state's general assembly passed Senate Bill 39, which bans transgender students from competing in school sports that match their gender identity, and Senate Bill 49, which bans doctors from prescribing hormones or puberty blockers to a minor in order to aid their gender transition.

The laws have yet to be signed by Gov. Mike Parson, whom the ACLU of Missouri is urging to veto the bills, stating they go against the recommendations of every major medical association.

The move also comes as Republican-led states seek to limit or outright ban gender-affirming care for minors.

According to the Movement Advancement Project, more than 15 states have implemented such bans.

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