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Mississippi governor signs bill banning transgender health care for minors

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves invited Matt Walsh, a commentator for the right-wing news outlet Daily Wire, to speak at the bill signing.
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Mississippi on Tuesday became the seventh state to enact a restriction on certain transition-related health care for minors.

Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said he signed the bill, which bars puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for minors, because “there is a dangerous movement spreading across America today.”

“It’s advancing under the guise of a false ideology, and pseudo science is being pushed onto our children through radical activist, social media and online influencers, and it’s trying to convince our children that they are in the wrong body,” Reeves said at a news conference Tuesday, after he signed the bill. “This dangerous movement attempts to convince these children that they’re just a surgery away from happiness. It threatens our children’s innocence, and it threatens their health.”

After he signed the bill, Reeves invited Matt Walsh, a commentator for the right-wing news outlet Daily Wire, to speak. Walsh has increasingly criticized hospitals, particularly Vanderbilt University Medical Center, for their treatment of transgender youth. Walsh’s activism was a motivating factor in the Tennessee governor’s recent decision to reject more than $8 million in federal funds to combat HIV, NBC News reported earlier this month.

Matt Walsh speaks at the bill signing of House Bill 1125, Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act, on Feb. 28, 2023.
Matt Walsh speaks Tuesday at the bill signing of House Bill 1125, Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act.WLBT

Mississippi is one of at least 23 states this year to consider restrictions on gender-affirming health care for minors, which can include puberty blockers, hormone therapy and, rarely, surgery. 

In addition to barring this type of care for minors, Mississippi’s bill also bans public funding from going to any institution or individual that provides such care to minors. Health care providers who infringe the law can have their licenses revoked. The law also allows minors who receive transition-related care to sue providers for 30 years after they receive care. The measure takes effect immediately.

In the last two years, governors in seven states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and, now, Mississippi — have signed such measures into law, though judges have blocked Arkansas’ and Alabama’s laws from taking effect pending the outcome of lawsuits.

Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs House Bill 1125, Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act.
Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signs House Bill 1125, Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act.WLBT

The Mississippi bill’s principal author, Rep. Gene Newman, a Republican, did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. 

The measure makes exceptions for intersex infants, for circumcision on babies assigned male at birth and for the treatment of health conditions unrelated to gender dysphoria, which is the distress caused by a sense of conflict between a person’s assigned sex at birth and their gender identity. 

Restrictions on transition care are part of a wave of state legislation that targets LGBTQ people. So far this year, state lawmakers have introduced over 300 bills targeting LGBTQ people, according to counts by both the American Civil Liberties Union and a separate group of researchers who are tracking the legislation. 

Most of the bills focus on transgender youths, according to an NBC News analysis. In the last three years, 18 states have banned transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams at school, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank. At least 15 states are considering similar measures so far this year, NBC News found. 

Stacie Pace, the owner of Spectrum: The Other Clinic, which is in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and provides transition-related care, said in a statement after the Legislature passed the bill that there are no children undergoing gender-affirming surgeries in the state. 

“There are not even options for bottom (genital) surgeries for adults in this state,” Pace said in a statement.

She added that anyone under 18 only receives gender-affirming medication after a thorough multidisciplinary evaluation and that parents are always involved. She also noted that many national medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — support access to gender-affirming care for minors. 

“Therefore, it is unclear to us where anti-trans lawmakers are getting the idea that more research needs to be done,” Pace said. “This problem they perceive with trans youth getting procedures done simply doesn’t exist and is a smoke screen easily cleared up by speaking with those who work with this population regularly.”