JACKSON, Miss.—A bill that would prohibit transgender minors from accessing trans-inclusive health care could become law after the Mississippi House passed it by 78-28 vote this afternoon.
The bill, known as the “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act,” would prohibit standard treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs by barring public funds from going to “any entity, organization or individual that provides gender transition procedures to a person under eighteen years of age.” It would still need approval from the Mississippi Senate and Gov. Tate Reeves’ signature before becoming law.
Before the vote, Human Rights Campaign Mississippi Director Rob Hill told the Mississippi Free Press that he is “concerned” because he knows the families of transgender children and teens.
“And it’s already a very challenging situation being able to afford the kind of care they need and the mental health impact it has on these young people,” he said. “This is not a decision the parents or children make lightly, and so I worry about the mental health of the young people. I worry about the mental health of the parents and family of the loved ones.
“Because we know that even when these bills are introduced, they can have an impact, even when they don’t pass. It’s a dangerous thing all around. Trans youth disproportionately attempt and unfortunately succeed at suicide. So that’s a very scary thing. And these decisions should be made by family members, not by politicians. And their job is to do good—to work for the good of their constituents.”
While transgender minors have significantly higher rates of suicide than their peers, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday found that transgender teenagers who receive gender-affirming hormone treatments experience improved mental health and lower levels of depression.
In addition to banning hormone therapy and puberty blockers, the bill specifically bans “gender reassignment surgery.” Hill said that issue is a red herring.
“That’s misinformation going around; they use words like ‘gender reassignment’ or ‘mutilation,’” he said. “The only care trans youth receive is mental health care or puberty blockers, which is basically a pause button until they get to be 18. And most states don’t allow any kind of surgery until they are 18. So basically what we are offering young people is critical care they need—not gender reassignment.”
Earlier this morning, members of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee advanced the REAP Act in an 18-5 vote. The bill would also prohibit health insurance policies from covering “gender transition procedures” for anyone under the age of 18 and prohibit the Division of Medicaid from reimbursing or providing coverage for it.
At the committee meeting this morning, Mississippi House Rep. John W. Hines, Sr., D-Greenville, asked Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, to “help me understand what rights this child has because there are a lot of young folk out here who are confused about who they are and what they are.”
The Republican lawmaker said the bill is necessary “because there is a presence and a threat” associated with transgender minors seeking and receiving care in Mississippi. He said people should not be able to obtain gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers, until after they are 18 years old.
Bain said what he is advocating for is a “wait-and-see approach.”
“I’m not a doctor, I’m not a professional in this regard, but I can say yes, there are the children in this, they are confused—OK, It goes both ways,” Bain said. “There’s also another gram of this where the child goes, he has the procedure, he removes his body parts, and then years later he regrets it. What about that child gentleman? What about the minority there—that that child cannot reverse what he thought he was when he wasn’t what he thought he was.
“I’m asking to take a wait and see approach, to be conservative about this, to be very, very careful.”
But after presenting the REAP Act on the House floor, Rep. Bain admitted that he is not aware of any children undergoing gender-confirmation surgeries in Mississippi.
“Procedures? As far as surgeries, I’m not aware of any,” he said in response to a question from Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson. “As far as hormones, that is going on.”
On the House floor, Rep. Darryl Porter, D-McComb, criticized the committee for making the REAP Act its first bill on the floor this year—at a time when more than half of the state’s rural hospitals are in danger of closing.
The REAP Act’s principal author is Rep. Gene Newman, R-Pearl. Co-authors include House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton; Rep. Dan Eubanks, R-Walls; and Rep. Mark Tullos, R-Raleigh.
In recent years, conservative lawmakers across the country have passed laws targeting transgender minors, and other states have already enacted laws making trans-inclusive care illegal for them. In 2021, Mississippi lawmakers approved a bill banning transgender minors from playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identities. Lawmakers backing the bill admitted at the time that they were not aware of any issues in Mississippi arising from transgender children playing on sports teams.
“I definitely feared that we would see that in Mississippi,” Hill told the Mississippi Free Press. “I also have a heightened fear, because this is an election year, and very often politicians will throw out what they consider to be red meat to their constituents, particularly the very conservative ones. And we’ve seen an uptick on attacks on trans individuals, particularly transgender minors.”
In a statement this afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi called the REAP Act “an attempt to criminalize parents and healthcare providers for supporting Mississippi youth during their most challenging years,” adding that “[d]enying healthcare to transgender youth can be life-threatening.”
“Research shows transgender youth are twice as likely than their cisgender peers to experience depression, isolation, and attempt suicide,” the organization added. “Additionally, transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a decrease in suicidal thoughts and significant increases in self-esteem.”