Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Physician Groups Oppose Criminalization of Gender-Affirming Care

APA and its five partner organizations, collectively known as the Group of Six, issued a statement yesterday expressing their strong opposition to the criminalization of gender-affirming care. The statement comes in response to a directive issued by Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in which he told state agencies to classify gender-affirming care as child abuse under state law. 

“All patients must have access to evidence-based health care, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” the statement reads. “Our organizations will not stand for any efforts that discriminate against transgender and gender-diverse individuals and cause harm to their health and well-being.” 

The Group of Six includes APA, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association.

On February 18, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion stating that gender-affirming care of children, such as surgical interventions or puberty-suppressing drugs, “can legally constitute child abuse” under Texas law. In response, on February 22, Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), which is responsible for investigating charges of child abuse. “Texas law … imposes a duty on DFPS to investigate the parents of a child who is subjected to these abusive gender-transitioning procedures, and on other state agencies to investigate licensed facilities where such procedures may occur,” Abbott said in the letter. 

Abbott further specified that Texas law includes reporting requirements for health care professionals who have direct contact with children “who may be subject to such abuse,” including doctors and nurses. The law also “provides criminal penalties for failure to report such abuse,” Abbott said. The New York Times reported that it is unclear how Abbott’s directive, which does not change Texas law, will be enforced.

“As physicians our job is to support the health and well-being of our patients,” the Group of Six said in the statement. “The trusted relationship between a physician and their patient should never be jeopardized by the actions of policymakers, and a physician should not be criminalized or penalized for providing care. Furthermore, the insertion of non-scientific standards into clinical decision making and care interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and prevents the provision of appropriate care.”

This is not the first time the organizations have spoken out against such state actions. Last year, they issued a similar statement that outlined their firm opposition to several bills being deliberated in state legislatures that would restrict gender-affirming care.

“All patients must have access to evidence-based health care, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” yesterday’s statement reads. “We will continue to advocate to ensure their health needs are met and supported, not put in danger.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Record Number of Anti-Trans Bills Filed in States This Year.”

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