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Advocates challenge Missouri attorney general’s emergency order against gender-affirming care

The lawsuit claims the order is baseless and puts those seeking the controversial medical treatment at risk for irreversible harm to their health and well-being.

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) — Advocates claim in a lawsuit that Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey over-stepped his authority in attempting to implement an emergency order limiting gender-affirming care to state residents.

Led by Southampton Community Healthcare, the plaintiffs seek an injunction against Bailey’s April 13 order in a lawsuit filed late Monday afternoon in St. Louis County Court. The order, if approved, will take effect on Thursday.

“Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey's emergency order is a baseless and discriminatory attempt to limit the healthcare options for transgender individuals, who already face several barriers accessing necessary and life-saving medical care,” said Southampton Community Healthcare's Dr. Samuel Tochtrop in a statement.

Gender-affirming care has become a hot button topic in Missouri, where the state’s Republican-dominated legislature is working to pass bills outright banning the care to minors.

Bailey, a Republican, became the first state attorney general to attempt to limit gender-affirming care when he announced the emergency regulations on March 20. The restrictions, which apply to both minors and adults, include an 18-month waiting period, 15 hourlong psychiatric assessment sessions and a requirement that any mental conditions are “resolved” before Missouri doctors can provide gender-affirming care.

The order was announced after Bailey called for a moratorium on the use of puberty blockers and hormone therapy at St. Louis Children’s Hospital's Washington University Transgender Center while his office investigates claims by former case manager Jamie Reed that patients were rushed into treatments and parents were not properly informed about the nature of the treatments.

Bailey’s office did not immediately respond to a request made after business hours for comment, but at the time of announcing the emergency order he had harsh words regarding gender-affirming care in a statement issued by his office.

“Even Europe recognizes that mutilating children for the sake of a woke, leftist agenda has irreversible consequences, and countries like Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom have all sharply curtailed these procedures,” Bailey said at the time. “I am dedicated to using every legal tool at my disposal to stand in the gap and protect children from being subject to inhumane science experiments.”

But advocates for gender-affirming treatments for minors say it is Bailey who is causing the harm.

“The Attorney General’s dangerous and unlawful twisting of Missouri’s consumer protection laws corrupt our health care system by inserting the government into the medical decisions of people and their doctors in order to play politics at the expense of life-saving medical care,” said Gillian Wilcox, deputy director for litigation at the ACLU of Missouri, in a statement.

Wilcox added, “This chicanery is the Attorney General’s attempt to legislate and harm transgender Missourians while ignoring evidence-based medical treatment for his own political gain.”

The 37-page lawsuit states that “volumes of empirical evidence and decades of clinical experience demonstrate that medical care for the treatment of gender dysphoria, also known as gender-affirming care, is medically necessary, safe, and effective for both transgender adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria.”

The group of plaintiffs claim the order puts them at risk for irreversible harm to their health and well-being.

“Studies have found that as many as 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives,” the lawsuit states.

It continued, “When adolescents are able to access puberty-delaying medication and hormone therapy, their distress recedes and their mental health improves.”

Bailey’s order uses the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act as its basis. The MMPA is primarily used to regulate fraudulent business practices.

The plaintiffs claim Bailey’s order is an attempt to usurp the power of the state legislature and to regulate medical care in the state.

“The Emergency Rule tramples the rights of transgender adolescents and their parents, transgender adults, and medical and mental health professionals who provide vital care to transgender individuals,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Bennett Clark of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in St. Louis.

The complaint states Bailey lacks the statutory authority to issue such an order, that it conflicts with state law and that it is arbitrary and capricious.

It adds, “Additionally, the Attorney General promulgated the Emergency Rule almost a month after announcing it, which undermines any supposed emergency basis for it, and only emphasizes the truth: there is no emergency.”

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