A Louisiana Senate committee defeated a proposed law to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors earlier this week when the committee’s Republican chairman voted with Democrats to kill the bill.
The bill will not move forward, making Louisiana the only state in the Deep South that does not expressly prohibit doctors from recommending gender-affirming treatments for transgender youth.
Louisiana’s bill failed in a vote in the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee when Sen. Fred Mills (R-New Iberia), the committee chairman and a pharmacist by trade, voted to defer the bill rather than pass it out of committee.
Mills said his decision was heavily influenced by a 2022 Louisiana Health Department study on gender-affirming health care, which found that no gender-affirming surgical procedures had been performed on any minors enrolled in Medicaid in the state between 2017 and 2021.
Instances in which medications, such as hormones or puberty blockers, were prescribed to transgender minors were also exceedingly rare, according to the report.
Mills said he trusts physicians more than legislators to make medical decisions in a patient’s best interests.
“I always in my heart of hearts have believed that a [medical] decision should be made by a patient and a physician,” he said, according to The Hill.
Had it passed, the bill would have barred healthcare professionals from prescribing gender-affirming treatments to minors, or referring minor patients to places where they could obtain such treatments. Those who violated the law could have their professional licenses revoked.
Leading up to Wednesday’s vote, staff for Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards helped mobilize votes against the bill, according to The Advocate, a Louisiana-based newspaper.
Earlier this month, Edwards condemned a spate of anti-LGBTQ legislation, citing disproportionately high rates of suicide among transgender youth and suggesting that such bills might contribute to the feelings of isolation or depression that lead people to contemplate or attempt suicide.
Edwards, who has largely tried to avoid social issues as a Democrat in a Republican-leaning state, has a mixed record on LGBTQ legislation.
Last year, he allowed a bill banning transgender athletes from female-designated sports teams to become law without his signature, based on the calculation that Republicans appeared to have the votes to override any potential veto.
National conservatives raged at Mills for defeating the ban on gender-affirming care.
Right-wing provocateur and pundit Matt Walsh vowed to seek political retribution against Mills on Twitter.
“Fred Mills has sided with the butchers and groomers,” he tweeted to his more than 2 million followers. “He will regret it. This is the biggest mistake of his political career, and also the end of his career. He’s going to be infamous and disgraced by his own base. We’ll make sure of that.”
Mills, who is term-limited, cannot run for re-election to his Senate seat in 2024, and has thus far not indicated any interest in seeking higher office.
Other conservative social media users — always eager to uncover a grand conspiracy, even when one doesn’t exist — accused Mills of kowtowing to pharmaceutical companies that “get rich” by peddling gender-affirming hormones, while others noted that Mills had previously appeared in drag in a series of commercials for his pharmacy.
But Mills, who does not have a Twitter account, seemed to suggest he didn’t care when asked about being cast as a villain by national conservative activists.
“Why should I?” he told the Louisiana Illuminator. “They don’t live in District 22. They don’t have a 337 area code. I didn’t run for office to serve those people.”
The move comes when many states with Republican-led legislatures in the Deep South are ramming through bills to restrict LGBTQ rights or expressions of LGBTQ visibility.
Examples of such bills include bans on gender-affirming care for trans youth, “bathroom bills” restricting transgender people’s ability to access multi-user restrooms matching their gender identity, bans on transgender youth participating on sports teams according to their gender identity, bans on LGBTQ content or discussions in schools, bans on books with LGBTQ themes or characters, and “conscience” bills that allow government employees or health care workers to refuse to serve or treat LGBTQ individuals by citing religious or moral objections to homosexuality.
Neighboring Mississippi and Arkansas have passed bills in the past two years prohibiting doctors from recommending medical treatments for transgender-identifying minors, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott is poised to sign a nearly identical measure into law in the coming weeks.
Texas has also gone further to stop such treatments, attempting to weaponize state child welfare agencies by having them investigate parents of transgender children who are believed to have permitted their children to receive gender-affirming health care.
Similar bills have passed in Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida, and are being considered in South Carolina and North Carolina, where proponents appear to have the votes to override any gubernatorial veto.
Another 11 states outside the Deep South have also passed similar prohibitions in recent years.
Both Arkansas and Alabama’s bills have been temporarily blocked by federal judges.
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