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May 24, 2021

Legislation to Criminalize Gender-Affirming Medical Care for Transgender Youth

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  • 2Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy, Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut
  • 3Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics, Harvard Law School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2021;325(22):2251-2252. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.7764

Legislation seeking to criminalize or otherwise prevent the provision of gender-affirming care for transgender adolescents is on the rise. This Viewpoint describes these laws and explains why they are harmful and potentially unlawful.

Transgender adolescents are those whose gender identity (ie, their psychological sense of their own gender) is incongruent with their sex assigned at birth.1 According to a 2017 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.8% of 118 803 surveyed adolescents in the United States identified as transgender.2 In this same study, approximately 35% of transgender adolescents reported having attempted suicide, highlighting the importance of the mental health concerns affecting this population.2

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    1 Comment for this article
    Transgender Care
    Michael Schmidt | Orthopedic Surgery
    At what point does legislation become medical practice? When laws are enacted to withhold medically necessary care and treatments against the advice of leading medical authorities and institutions, the legislative body is practicing medicine -- their own personal uninformed brand of healthcare. Such actions go well beyond regulation in the broad public interest. They are directing patient care to conform to their own personal beliefs and bias, potentially causing serious patient harm and death with no foundation, training, or degree in medicine.