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Kentucky governor vetoes ban on gender-affirming care for youth

<i>Timothy D. Easley/AP/FILE</i><br/>On March 24
Timothy D. Easley/AP/FILE
On March 24

By Kaanita Iyer and Paradise Afshar, CNN

Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on Friday vetoed a Republican-led bill that would prohibit transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care, such as surgical procedures or the use of certain hormones, bucking a growing trend of states restricting access to the treatments.

Republican state lawmakers passed the bill last week, arguing that children should not be allowed to make such consequential decisions and that the ban would protect minors.

But in his veto message, Beshear warned that the ban on gender-affirming care, which LGBTQ advocates have long stressed is life-saving health care, would “endanger the children of Kentucky.”

“Senate Bill 150 allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues and rips away the freedom of parents to make medical decisions for their children,” the governor added in the statement.

The Republican-majority state legislature could override Beshear, something lawmakers did last year after the governor vetoed an anti-trans sports ban in the state. Still, Beshear’s efforts stand in contrast with governors in Georgia and Iowa, who signed measures restricting minors’ access to gender-affirming care earlier this week.

Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender — the one the person was designated at birth — to their affirmed gender — the gender by which one wants to be known.

SB 150, if enforced, would call for health care providers to terminate or set a timeline to end treatment for patients already undergoing gender-affirming care. The bill also aims to prevent schools from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students of any age and allows educators to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns.

Beshear argued that the bill would “cause an increase in suicide among Kentucky’s youth.”

The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, noted the prevalence of deaths by suicide among LGBTQ youth.

“In the last year, nearly half of LGBTQ youth in Kentucky seriously considered suicide — alarmingly, nearly 1 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth in the state made a suicide attempt,” Troy Stevenson, director of state advocacy campaigns for the Trevor Project, previously told CNN. “Our leaders are pushing political wedge issues and sidestepping the real challenges like addressing the youth mental health crisis.”

But supporters of the bill argue that it “is the right thing to do for these children.”

“If we’re going to protect children, we need to ensure that surgery or drugs that completely alter their life and alter their body is not something we should be allowing until they are adults who could choose that for themselves,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. David Meade, a Republican.

Several states, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Utah and South Dakota, have enacted legislation this year to restrict minors’ access to gender-affirming care.

Additionally, more than 80 similar bills have been introduced around the country through early last month, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union and shared with CNN.

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CNN’s Devan Cole contributed to this report.

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