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A transgender clinic in St. Louis will no longer prescribe gender hormones to minors thanks to a new state law that exposes doctors to lawsuits if they provide such treatments.
The Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital “will no longer prescribe puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones to minors for purposes of gender transition,” Washington University, which is affiliated with the hospital, announced on Monday.
Missouri’s new law bans putting children on puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones and performing gender surgery on minors. The law includes an exception for patients already on hormone treatments, allowing them to continue taking them.
Despite the exception, however, the Transgender Center chose to stop offering hormone treatments to all patients because the ban exposes doctors to lawsuits, university officials said.
“This legal claim creates unsustainable liability for health-care professionals and makes it untenable for us to continue to provide comprehensive transgender care for minor patients without subjecting the university and our providers to an unacceptable level of liability,” Washington University said in a statement.
“We are disheartened to have to take this step,” the university added.
The law set the minimum liability at $500,000.
The legislature approved the new law in May. The measure took effect August 28 and expires in 2027.
The Transgender Center’s decision comes after explosive whistleblower accusations against the gender clinic earlier this year.
In February, Jamie Reed, a former case manager at the Transgender Center, went public with allegations that the gender clinic had hastily put children with significant psychiatric issues on gender hormone treatments. Reed also alleged that the clinic did not make sure children and their families were fully aware of the side effects, some of which are serious.
At the same time, emergency room staff at the hospital started seeing a spike in trans-identifying children showing up every day in psychiatric crisis, The New York Times reported last month. The children were taking hormones but not receiving the counseling they needed, the emergency room doctors warned.
In recent years, the clinic saw a huge spike in trans-identifying minors asking for services. By 2021, four or five new patients were calling the clinic every day, up from 2018 when the clinic would only see four or five new patients a month. About 73% of those new patients were girls, according to internal documents reported by the Times.
Some adolescents with red flags in their medical histories were put on gender hormone regimens, the Times reported. Some of those patients later stopped identifying as transgender and received no support from the clinic afterward.
Reed and the clinic’s nurse together kept a private “red flag list” of 60 patients with complex psychiatric diagnoses, a changing sense of gender, or complicated family situations. One patient on testosterone stopped taking their schizophrenia medication, one was known to hallucinate, and one had been in a psychiatric unit for five months.
After the whistleblower allegations, Missouri’s Republican attorney general opened an investigation into the clinic. That investigation remains ongoing.
Over the last few years, critics have sounded the alarm about the permanent effects of both gender hormone treatments and surgical procedures, especially on children.
Both puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones come with serious health risks. Puberty blockers can affect bone growth and density and cause sexual dysfunction, voice damage, and infertility, among other issues. Cross-sex hormones can cause infertility, deadly blood clots, heart attacks, increased cancer risks of the breasts and ovaries, liver dysfunction, worsening psychological illness, and other serious conditions.
The number of gender surgeries nearly tripled in the U.S. from 2016 to 2019, according to an analysis published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open. In 2016, there were about 4,550 procedures, and that number spiked to around 13,000 in 2019.
Hundreds of girls in the U.S., some as young as 12, have gotten elective, gender-related double mastectomies to remove their healthy breasts over the last few years.
Meanwhile, it is more popular than ever for youth to adopt new gender identities. An estimated 300,000 minors aged 13 to 17 identified as transgender as of last year.