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Missouri lawmakers move forward with bills targeting transgender youth health care, sports

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(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- Missouri has become the latest state to advance bills that target transgender youth.

The Republican-led House voted to push forward in a committee this week with HB 2649 or the "Missouri Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act," which bars physicians and health care professionals employed by state and local governments from providing “gender transition procedures” to anyone under the age of 18. It also prohibits state or locally-run facilities from performing the procedure on minors.

The legislature also voted for an amendment to HB 1973, which would require transgender students in high school to play on the sports teams of the same biological sex listed on their birth certificate.

Any physician or health care professional who performs gender transitioning procedures or refers anyone to any health care professional that can could be "subject of civil and administrative actions," according to the proposed bill.

The SAFE Act also states that any health carrier or health benefit plan on or after Jan. 1, 2023, will not include reimbursement for gender transition procedures for an individual under 18 years of age, nor will it be required to provide coverage for gender transition procedures.

Republican Rep. Suzie Pollock, who sponsored the SAFE Act, said when presenting it at a hearing on Thursday that the SAFE Act “helps kids struggling to embrace their biological sex by protecting them from harmful drugs and surgery.”

“The SAFE Act is providing a standard of informed consent for children by not violating the Hippocratic Oath of ‘Do no harm,'” she said. “Giving children puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and even irreversible surgery violates the first duty of medicine, which is ‘Do no harm.’”

PROMO, a Missouri statewide organization advocating for LGBTQ equality, tweeted against the SAFE Act.

“Testifying in front of HB 2649 this morning. Rep. Pollock’s extreme attack on banning access to life-saving affirming health care for trans kids. We’re here to protect trans youth in our state,” PROMO said. “Don’t be fooled, there’s nothing ‘SAFE’ about this act. Call Rep. Pollock now and express how offensive her misunderstanding of science and medicine really is."

Republican Rep. Ron Copeland said he offered the amendment to HB 1973 to protect his daughter.

“I know this is a controversial issue in this body, and when it comes right down to it, I come up here and I’m going to fight for my daughter and all the daughters in the state,” Copeland said at the hearing. “I want everybody to know that I’m here as a father, and if I can’t fight for my daughter's rights, I can’t expect anyone else to do that.”

Copeland said he is okay with biological women playing male sports due to the biological differences.

Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman was in agreement with Copeland’s amendment.

"Conflating who can and cannot participate in [sports] is really going to hurt the outcome for our daughters, so as someone who has really benefited from participation in women’s sports, I would ask everyone to stand up for our daughters and for the girls of the state and support this amendment," she said.

Missouri Democrat Rep. Ian Mackey went viral on Apr. 14 for his speech condemning a different bill that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams. Mackey spoke up about the same issue again at Monday’s hearing.

"I just want to remind my colleagues -- colleagues that I have had conversations with over the last few days about this legislation -- that your vote on the record will last forever," Mackey said. "Do the right thing."

Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth also spoke out against the amendment.

"I’ve got three daughters. I want to protect my three daughters. This stuff is not how we do it … This is not about protecting our daughters. It’s about ignorance and fear," Merideth said at the hearing on the bill. "It’s about bullying the most vulnerable group of kids in our state to score political points."

Both bills will move forward and await to be heard on the floor in front of the full chambers.

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