Kansas legislature sends ban on gender-affirming care for minors to Democratic governor’s desk

Originally Published: 27 MAR 24 19:54 ET
Updated: 27 MAR 24 20:43 ET

(CNN) — Kansas’ Republican-controlled legislature has advanced a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors to the governor’s desk.

The Senate voted 27-13 on Wednesday after the House voted 82-39 earlier in the day to advance the measure.

The measure now awaits a decision from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who vetoed a similar measure last year. GOP lawmakers were then unable to override the governor’s veto. The state Senate passed the bill Wednesday with a veto-proof majority while the House, which had multiple absences, was two votes shy. Two absent Republican state representatives previously voted in favor of the legislation.

CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

With the passage, Kansas joins at least 20 states that have moved to curb gender-affirming care for minors as transgender rights have become a marquee issue for the Republican Party. Several legal challenges over such restrictions are playing out across the country, which has placed intense pressure on the Supreme Court to step into the charged debate.

The measure would ban gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth in Kansas, including puberty blockers and surgeries, though surgical procedures are rarely performed on children.

Gender-affirming care spans a range of evidence-based treatments and approaches that benefit transgender and nonbinary people. The types of care vary by the age and goals of the recipient and are considered the standard of care by many mainstream medical associations.

The legislation would allow health care providers to phase out treatment by the end of the year for any minors currently receiving care — a provision added after a back-and-forth over multiple conferences. However, providers would first be required to demonstrate that immediately stopping care would endanger the child and create a plan to phase out treatment.

The measure would also allow civil lawsuits to be filed against doctors, who would have their licenses revoked if they provide gender-affirming treatment to a minor and be held liable for any “physical, psychological, emotional or physiological harms” until the minor turns 28 years of age. Doctors’ liability insurance would be prohibited from covering damages that stem from offering such treatment.

The bill would also bar the use of state funds, such as Medicaid, to promote treatments and state employees would be prohibited from recognizing a minor’s preferred pronouns if it doesn’t match the sex assigned at their birth.

Kansas Democrats have slammed the bill as an infringement on the rights of transgender people while state Republicans contend that it is a measure to protect kids – arguments that align with how both parties nationally have tackled the hot-button issue.

Democratic state Rep. Tobias Schlingensiepen told CNN following the House vote that “children’s well being” and medical decisions “should be left up to the judgment of parents, together with their children, together with their medical provider.”

Schlingensiepen added that the bill is “concerning” because it sends “a signal to children and youth across the state that they may possibly become medical refugees.”

“(A)nd as one state after another picks up these anti-trans bills around, you know, banning gender affirming care, families are starting to wonder, ‘Where can we go,’” Schlingensiepen said. “And so what they’re doing are creating people who have to now make very difficult choices about relocating somewhere in our country where these bills have not yet taken root.”

Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. Mark Steffen defended the bill, saying it protects “our troubled children from wayward parents and wayward health care system.”

“To do no harm entails not disfiguring minors with drugs or knives but helping them deal with their issues constructively,” Steffen said on the state Senate floor after Wednesday’s vote.

This measure expands previous efforts by the GOP-controlled legislature that tackle transgender rights. Last year, Kansas lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to enact an anti-trans sports ban, which prohibits trans women and girls in the state from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender from kindergarten through college.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Jack Forrest and Devan Cole contributed to this report. 

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