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Florida health care providers are pausing gender-affirming care for adults

Health care organizations including Planned Parenthood are suspending gender-affirming medical care in Florida to comply with a new state law that bans transition-related care for transgender minors and places heavy restrictions on care for adults.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who is expected to enter the 2024 presidential race next week, on Wednesday signed legislation immediately prohibiting health care professionals from administering puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgeries to transgender minors.

Those who violate the law risk being convicted of a third-degree felony crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, according to Florida’s criminal code.

The new law places additional restrictions on adult access to gender-affirming health care, despite being billed by Republicans in the state legislature as a measure to protect young children from making medical decisions they may later regret. 

The legislation substantially reduces the number of providers able to administer care by allowing only physicians to provide gender-affirming services, meaning other health care professionals — including physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives — are unable to provide care that is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations.

Gender-affirming health care for adults, according to the new law, may only be administered once an informed consent form is signed, but the state medical boards tasked with drafting the forms have not yet done so, forcing health care providers across the state into a difficult position.

“It’s clear that the law was designed not only to restrict care for adults, but to cause an immediate gap in access — providers across the state are being forced to pause services because the law took effect immediately, and the state hasn’t promulgated the required consent forms needed to comply,” a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood told The Hill on Friday.

The organization has initiated a temporary pause on gender-affirming health care in the state, they said. Care is likely to resume in mid-June.

In an emailed statement, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida (PPSENFL) said the pause will be used to make “operational adjustments to comply with the new law, which now forbids our skilled and competent nurse practitioners from providing gender-affirming care.”

“We will have to reorganize physician schedules, develop new consent forms with language that complies with the new requirements of the law, and change the delivery of that care as we are only allowed to offer telehealth for some appointments,” the organization said. “Our commitment to providing high-quality, compassionate care to our gender-affirming hormone therapy patients remains unwavering. We will navigate these changes together.”

Patients who have had their appointments canceled because of the pause will be contacted to reschedule by June 12, PPSENFL said.

The new Florida law appears to have driven other, smaller providers to halt the administration of adult gender-affirming care, too.

“As a result of SB 254, and to meet the requirements set out by the State of Florida, it is with deep regret that we are no longer able to provide Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), surgical clearance letters and gender marker letters to our transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender nonconforming patients,” reads a statement posted Wednesday by 26Health, an LGBTQ health center in Orlando.

“While we are unable to provide these services at this time, 26Health firmly believes that our transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender nonconforming community members deserve to live fully and openly as their truest selves,” the statement continues. “We will continue to provide care to our gender diverse community members including primary care and mental health services, which are incredibly important during this difficult climate.”

Folx Health, an online-only provider, announced this week after Senate Bill 254 was signed that it would no longer be able to legally prescribe gender-affirming hormone therapy to patients, as the new law requires consent forms to be signed during an in-person visit with a doctor.

The group said it is working to hire more physicians “who are licensed and living in Florida” and open in-person locations in “major hubs across the state.”

“You will hear from us again as soon as we have information about how to set up in person care or take other necessary steps, as the legal implications become clearer,” the announcement states. “We are here for you and are so sorry your healthcare rights are at stake.”

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