Kansas Legislature votes to revoke licenses of physicians who perform gender-affirming care

By: - April 7, 2023 10:40 am
A protester holds a homemade sign at the March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy at the Kansas Statehouse on Friday.

Kansas lawmakers pushed through legislation essentially criminalizing gender-affirming care. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Legislature voted to effectively ban gender-affirming care for Kansans under the age of 18 and revoke the license of physicians who offered such care, comparing gender identity issues to smoking. 

The bill was heard and passed 70-52 in the House and 23-12 in the Senate during early Friday morning hours, following the Legislature’s decision to suspend protocol and work through the night.  

Lawmakers who had worked since 9 or 10 a.m. the previous day struggled with exhaustion, with several lawmakers questioning why the bill had to be discussed for the first time and decided upon at 2 a.m. in the morning without public input. 

Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, an Overland Park Democrat, said she was against the bill for many reasons, including a lack of transparency.

“I’m angry and frustrated that we are debating a bill of this significant of a nature that we have never heard in this chamber, that has never been debated in a house committee, at the eleventh hour metaphorically— what is actually 1:27 a.m. the day after we should’ve already adjourned,” Vaughn said. “We are debating yet again taking away the rights of trans kids in Kansas.” 

The ban is one of several anti-LGBTQ bills debated by the Legislature. A transgender student athlete ban was enacted Wednesday 

The bill would allow for civil suits against doctors who provided gender-affirming care for those under age 18. It would also revoke the licenses of physicians who offered such care, starting in July 2023. 

Beyond gender-transition surgery, the bill bans providing “testosterone to females,” “doses of estrogen to males,” and prescribing puberty-blocking medications to those under the required age.

Gender-affirming care for youths is supported by health care organizations including American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which say banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors is damaging and not rooted in science. 

Rep. Susan Humphries, a Wichita Republican, said the bill was about protecting the health of young Kansans. Humphries called the increased usage of gender-assignment care among youth a  “social contagion” and claimed many people who transitioned at a young age were later de-transitioning. She and other lawmakers were unable to point to any in-state examples of “de-transitioners.”  

Humphries compared gender-affirming care to smoking. 

“Several years ago, this body passed a bill that said children under 18 couldn’t use tanning beds. We also have said they can’t smoke, they can’t drink, they can’t get tattoos. And why? Because we know they change their minds,” Humphries said.  

The legislation has been heavily criticized by transgender youths, activists and health care professionals, many of whom repeatedly showed up at the Statehouse to fight bills like this that would hugely affect their lives.

Rep. Cindy Neighbor, a Shawnee Democrat, said the ban was an overstep and that lawmakers needed to stay out of Kansans’ bathrooms and bedrooms. 

“None of us are God,” Neighbor said. 

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Rachel Mipro
Rachel Mipro

A graduate of Louisiana State University, Rachel Mipro has covered state government in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. She and her fellow team of journalists were 2022 Goldsmith Prize Semi-Finalists for their work featuring the rise of the KKK in northern Louisiana, following racially-motivated shootings in 1960. With her move to the Midwest, Rachel is now turning her focus toward issues within Kansas public policies.