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Three states pass new childhood gender protection bills

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP) — Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are the latest states to pass new legislation protecting minors from transgender surgery and hormonal treatment.

The three states join Utah and South Dakota bringing to five the number of states that prohibit gender-changing medical treatment on children.

Similar bills are progressing in 22 states, according to tracking sites.

While a 2021 law in Arkansas is enjoined in federal court, the Arkansas legislature sent a new bill March 8 to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to strengthen legal protections for minors.

The Arkansas bill would extend to 18 years past adulthood the amount of time minors who received such treatment can bring legal action against their doctors, a move experts say would adversely impact a physician’s ability to obtain malpractice insurance. The bill, as passed, does not apply to children born “with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development,” a stipulation widely present in such legislation.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has described such legislation as a vital protection for children.

“Christians have long said the state has the God-given role to protect innocent lives and that principle absolutely applies here,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press. “Children should not be subject to social experimentation. These proposals will ensure that doesn’t occur in these states.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed March 2 the law that takes effect on July 1 and bans all forms of gender-transforming treatment on children under the age of 18. The bill, as written, establishes a 30-year statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging harm from such treatments, sets a 10-year statute of limitations alleging death from such treatments, and negates as a legal defense parental consent — or the consent of the patient — for the treatment.

The Mississippi Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act (REAP) signed Feb. 28 by Gov. Tate Reeves and effective immediately, prohibits transgender treatment on children under age 18, criminalizes any intentional action that “aids or abets the performance or inducement of gender transition procedures” on minors, and automatically revokes the medical licenses of doctors and those of nonphysician healthcare professionals who provide such treatment.

Like Tennessee, the Mississippi law establishes a 30-year statute of limitations on lawsuits alleging harm from gender-altering treatments on minors.

Alabama’s law criminalizing the use of puberty blockers and hormones on transgender children 18 and younger has been blocked since May 2022 through a court challenge.