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Missouri gets results on gender medicalization crackdown, parental involvement

Kids cut off by university gender clinics now going to Planned Parenthood for so-called gender affirming care.

Published: October 1, 2023 11:05pm

France. Finland. Norway. Sweden. United Kingdom. Missouri?

Following in the footsteps of progressive European countries, the Show-Me State is showing America how to pump the brakes on medicalizing children with gender confusion. It's also fighting for parents to know how schools handle gender identity and have a say in policies. 

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey has been perhaps the most active among his state peers on the subject of children and gender identity, issuing his own emergency regulation this spring with specific requirements for minor transitions, buttressed by legislative action.

Seven months after Bailey launched an investigation of the pediatric gender clinic at Washington University in St. Louis, which was prompted by former case manager Jamie Reed's allegations of cavalier treatment protocols, the university said it will stop prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children.

While it cited Missouri's new law that lets minors sue providers who give them such treatments, claiming this creates "unsustainable liability" for the university, WUSTL tacitly confirmed some of Reed's allegations and The New York Times confirmed nearly all of them.

Reed's LGBT Courage Coalition recently scolded the media for months of repeating WUSTL's claims in response to Bailey's investigation, including that its clinic was the "only place" in the state where minors could receive treatment and that no one under 18 had breast removal, which WUSTL later walked back.

"If the public had learned right away that Wash U wasn’t credible, then reporters, investigators, and patients could have viewed all its later claims with more skepticism," Reed wrote.

WUSTL is far from the only gender clinic in Missouri, and it’s not the only one getting out of so-called gender affirming care for minors even though the new law only stops new prescriptions, according to the Missouri Independent.

The University of Missouri health system cut off current patients without warning all of them, prompting a protest from around 200 people, the newspaper reported. 

MU Health cited "significant legal liability" under the law, which puts a "clear and convincing" burden of proof on providers to show that blockers and hormones didn't cause a patient's infertility, a common side effect. 

Damages start at $500,000, with no maximum, and patients have 15 years to sue after receiving treatment or from age 21, whichever is later, even for those grandfathered in to continue treatment. 

St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri affiliates of Planned Parenthood, which calls itself the "second largest provider of hormone therapy" nationwide, told the Independent they are seeing an uptick in minors seeking treatments since the law took effect. 

The first visit costs $250, and followup visits are $200, plus unspecified lab costs, and monthly treatments generally continue throughout life. The clinics emphasize minor patients don't need to be in mental health therapy to receive the treatments. 

While in-state services are limited to cross-sex hormones for age 16 and up with parental consent, those Missouri affiliates also tell minors they can book appointments without those limits across the river in Illinois. Kansas City and Columbia affiliates said they don't serve minors.

Bailey is also putting school districts on notice that his office won't tolerate keeping parents in the dark about how they handle gender identity among students.

His office sued the Wentzville School District Sept. 26 for "repeatedly" and "knowingly" excluding parents from "policy discussions about bathroom and locker room access for transgender students" in violation of the state open meetings law, seeking civil penalties against individual board members for consciously ignoring their annual legal training.

In sworn affidavits, school board directors Renee Henke and Jennifer Olson alleged that Superintendent Danielle Tormala rushed them to approve the proposals at summer meetings and, over their repeated objections, justified discussing them in closed session to avoid lawsuits.

At the June 14 meeting, Tormala identified a specific organization, whose name is redacted in Olson's affidavit, as especially likely to sue the district if they spoke in public session about the restroom proposal. 

Tormala reiterated at the July 25 meeting that the district would be a "lightning rod" for litigation if it discussed transgender proposals openly as a "policy" rather than a "process," according to both affidavits. 

Henke said she specifically objected to only having 30 minutes to review the "Transgender Student Accommodation" proposal, which would hide restroom accommodations from parents in some situations. Tormala mentioned a male student who was already using the girls' bathroom and that girls think of him as "just one of the girls." 

One board member, Julie Scott, said she supported the closed-session discussion because "it's not the parents' damn business," Olson's affidavit says. (Henke's affidavit paraphrases the alleged comment but doesn't name the board member.)

When reviewing the June 14 minutes at the July 25 meeting, Olson said she noticed that board secretary Katie Lyczak had ignored her request to note Olson's objection to the closed discussion. 

While Olson's June 14 objection was documented by the Aug. 24 meeting, she said Lyczak inaccurately wrote that "all discussion" at that closed session was properly exempt from the Open Meetings Law, when only one part pertaining to an individual student was exempt. She, Henke and another director voted against approval of the June 14 minutes, which passed.

The district told Just the News on Friday it has yet to be "served a copy of the lawsuit" but "always take[s] matters of this kind very seriously" despite not generally commenting on active litigation.

"The Board of Education has adopted policies that demonstrate its commitment to Missouri Sunshine Law compliance and strives to faithfully adhere to those policies and the law," the statement reads.