Judge won’t stop Missouri gender-affirming care restrictions from taking effect Monday

A St. Louis judge will allow Missouri’s new restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender youth to take effect on Monday.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer on Friday denied a motion for a preliminary injunction blocking a new state law imposing the restrictions. The request for the injunction came as part of a lawsuit brought the ACLU of Missouri and other groups challenging the law.

The law, SB 49, would have banned gender-affirming surgeries for minors and imposed a moratorium on hormone therapy and puberty blockers for people under 18 until 2027. However, it allowed minors to continue hormone therapy or puberty blockers if they were already prescribed them before Monday.

“The science and medical evidence is conflicting and unclear,” Ohmer wrote in a two-page order. “Accordingly, the evidence raises more questions than answers.”

The legislation is part of a nationwide push to regulate the lives of transgender people and has stoked fear in the state’s transgender community and prompting some to consider leaving the state.

Doctors who violated the ban were at risk of losing their medical licenses and health care providers could have faced civil lawsuits for prescribing hormones and puberty blockers to minors. The law also would have affected adults, prohibiting Missouri Medicaid dollars from covering gender-affirming care and banning prisons and jails from providing gender-affirming surgeries.

Ohmer made the ruling after a multiple-day evidentiary hearing in St. Louis and Springfield during which medical experts and parents of trans youth testified against the law. The ACLU of Missouri, the national LGBTQ civil rights law firm Lambda Legal and the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner law firm filed suit against the law last month on behalf of three families of trans kids, medical providers and national LGBTQ advocacy organizations.

Ohmer wrote in his order that those challenging the law “have not clearly shown a sufficient threat of irreparable injury absent injunctive relief.” He added a “clear public interest” wouldn’t be furthered by granting a preliminary injunction.

After closing arguments in the hearing wrapped on Wednesday, the firms challenging the law released a joint statement criticizing it and saying they looked forward to the court’s ruling.

“SB 49 is not about improving patient care in Missouri; it is about preventing people from being transgender,” the statement said. “The law is rooted in discrimination as it would deny evidence-based, necessary, and often lifesaving medical care to transgender people while a non-transgender person to obtain the same treatment.”

Lawyers for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican who signed the law during Pride Month in June, and Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey defended the law in court this week.

Bailey, in statements on social media and in court filings, has painted SB 49 as a way to protect children. In a brief filed last week, Bailey framed gender-affirming care on youth as experimental.

After Ohmer’s order on Friday, Bailey noted that Missouri was the first state to successfully defend at the trial-court level a law restricting gender-affirming care.

“I’ve said from day one as Attorney General that I will fight to ensure that Missouri is the safest state in the nation for children,” Bailey said in a statement. “This is a huge step in that direction.”