Mississippi Governor Signs Law Blocking Gender Transition Procedures on Minors
Mississippi enacted on Tuesday the Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act (H.B. 1125), which forbids any person to “knowingly provide gender transition procedures to any person under eighteen years of age” or “engage in conduct that aids or abets” such procedures. H.B. 1125 passed the Mississippi House 78-29 on January 19, passed the Mississippi Senate 33-15 on February 21, and was signed by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) on February 28. The bill goes into effect immediately.
Reeves called out “a dangerous movement sweeping across America … trying to convince our children that they are in the wrong body. This dangerous movement attempts to convince these children that they’re just a surgery away from happiness.”
“I stand before you today to sign legislation that puts a stop to this in Mississippi and protects our kids,” said Reeves.
H.B. 1125 bars health care professionals from providing gender transition procedures for minors, proscribing “1. Prescribing or administering puberty-blocking drugs; 2. Prescribing or administering cross-sex hormones; or 3. Performing gender reassignment surgeries” that are “for the purpose of assisting an individual with a gender transition.”
Under H.B. 1125, providing gender transition procedures to a minor “shall be considered outside the applicable standard of care and is unprofessional conduct” punishable by revoking a health care professional’s license. It also enables a minor to “obtain compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, or any other appropriate relief” and “reasonable attorney’s fees” for up to 30 years from the violation. Finally, it stipulates that “the Attorney General shall bring an action to enforce compliance.”
While joining a growing wave of state legislation designed to protect minors from gender transition procedures, Mississippi’s REAP Act stands out for blocking state subsidies of gender transition procedures. H.B. 1125 forbids “public funds, resources, facilities, personnel or any other thing of value” from being “directly or indirectly used, granted, paid or distributed” to aid in a gender transition procedure on a minor. That includes government-owned health care facilities and government-employed health care professionals. It also stipulates that “any amount paid … for gender transition procedures is not deductible” from the state income tax.
H.B. 1125 does not permit “an insurance policy or other plan providing health care coverage in this state” to “include reimbursement for gender transition procedures” for minors. This is because the act specifies that “the practice of medicine shall not mean to provide gender transition procedures for any person under eighteen (18) years of age.”
Insurance and tax deduction provisions may seem redundant when the bill bans outright gender transition procedures on minors, but bill sponsor Rep. Gene Newman (R) wrote the bill with legal challenges in mind. The bill contains a severability clause, which states that, “If any section, paragraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any part of this act … is declared to be unconstitutional or void … the remaining sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases or parts of this act … shall remain in full force and effect.”
In fact, such a legal challenge is likely. In the neighboring states of Arkansas and Alabama, similar legislation to protect minors from gender transition procedures are currently blocked while legal challenges proceed. “At present, advocates in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah have publicly promised to bring immediate legal action over recent legislation banning medical treatments for transgender youth. South Dakota is likely to follow soon,” wrote the Mississippi ACLU in a letter opposing H.B. 1125.
Mississippi becomes the third state in the 2023 legislative session to enact a bill protecting children from gender transition procedures. Utah enacted a bill with “massive loopholes” on January 28, followed by South Dakota, which enacted a stronger bill on February 13. The Florida Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted similar standards of care without the legislature passing a bill. Tennessee followed days behind Mississippi with a bill that passed the legislature on February 23 and currently awaits the governor’s (likely) signature. Similar bills in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have already passed one legislative chamber.
This mounting wave of conservative counter-reaction to the aggressive push for children to transition has caused growing concern in left-leaning publications and amongst transgender activists. Politico Magazine complained that legislators were “coming after kids” by protecting them from harmful, irreversible procedures. The founding medical director of the Center for Transgender Care claimed in USA Today that such legislative protection “costs lives.”
Such claims are “false ideology and pseudoscience,” said Reeves. “It’s almost unimaginable that this is where we are in today’s America. Having to protect our kids from those pushing chemicals and castration? I honestly never thought I’d see this day.”
Due to the negative consequences of such influences, Reeves said, H.B. 1125 “is more necessary today than ever before.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.