Missouri lawmakers passed a bill May 10 banning certain types of medical or surgical gender reassignment procedures for minors who identify as transgender, as well as a measure blocking transgender student athletes from competing on sports teams opposite their biological sex.
The legislation banning some treatments for transgender minors would prohibit certain types of hormonal or surgical gender reassignments including puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. The measure regarding transgender student athletes would apply from kindergarten through college at both public and private schools in the state, at the risk of the schools’ state funding. Both measures would expire in 2027.
Supporters of prohibitions on medical interventions for minors who identify as transgender say such efforts will prevent them from making irreversible decisions as children they may later come to regret as adults.
Critics of such measures argue that preventing those interventions could cause other harm to minors such as mental health issues.
Jamie Morris, executive director and general counsel for the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), told OSV News May 11 that the group “supports efforts to protect minors from experimental medical treatment for gender dysphoria.”
The MCC is the official public policy agency for Missouri’s four Roman Catholic dioceses.
“We recognize that there is a real need to assist those young individuals who experience a gender identity that is discordant with their biological sex,” Morris said. “However, delaying a child’s natural timing of puberty can lead to irreparable and long-term negative health consequences. We applaud the General Assembly for addressing the issue this session and for taking steps to protect children from potentially harmful medical interventions.”
Matt Sharp, senior counsel and director of the Center for Legislative Advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, told OSV News in a May 11 statement that “denying the truth that we are either male or female causes actual harm to people, especially vulnerable children.”
“Missouri is right to stop the politicization of the health care system by ensuring that children are protected from life-altering, so-called ‘gender transition’ drugs and procedures,” Sharp said. “Young people deserve to live in a society that doesn’t subject them to risky experiments to which they cannot effectively consent. We commend the Missouri Legislature for taking a stand for children and for truth by passing these vital protections.”
The ACLU of Missouri argued in a statement that state lawmakers were attempting to “erase transness from Missouri.”
“Every person in the state should be alarmed by this weaponization of the government to intimidate people through the denial of basic health care and exclusion from extracurricular activities,” the statement said, adding that the group will “continue to explore all options to fight these bans and to expand the rights of trans Missourians.”
The bills will be considered by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, who previously indicated to local media that he supports the bills.
“We’re not going to walk away from this building” without passing the measures, Parson told reporters in April.
The issue of gender is becoming increasingly controversial, with the subject likely to become a frequent topic of the Republican presidential primary as states either move to restrict or protect such interventions.
In a statement released in March, the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee said that surgical, chemical or other interventions that aim “to exchange” a person’s “sex characteristics” for those of the opposite sex “are not morally justified.”
While acknowledging that “many people are sincerely looking for ways to respond to real problems and real suffering,” the committee urged “particular care” be taken “to protect children and adolescents, who are still maturing and who are not capable of providing informed consent” for interventions to change their sex characteristics.
Meanwhile, Catholic dioceses are starting to grapple with pastoral approaches to gender dysphoria, especially for Catholic school students.
In 2022, the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, issued guidelines for transgender youth stating that diocesan schools should demonstrate “conformity with the student’s biological sex as determined from conception and manifest at birth and at the time of the student’s enrollment.”
The Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, issued guidance and policies in January on ministering to people experiencing gender dysphoria. It called for coherence with the Church’s teaching on the inseparability of gender from biological sex while emphasizing pastoral compassion for children and adults wrestling with conflict between their sex and gender.
Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington.