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5 things to know about Louisiana's ban on gender-affirming care for youth

The Louisiana Legislature on Tuesday overturned Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto of a bill to ban certain forms of gender-affirming care for the state's youth. The override means the bill, House Bill 648, will become law.

Here are five things to know about what's next:

Just what is 'gender-affirming care?' Gender-affirming health care, as defined by the World Health Organization, includes a range of interventions that are "designed to support and affirm an individual's gender identity" when that identity conflicts with the gender that individual was assigned at birth. These interventions can include counseling, hormones, surgery, puberty or hormone blockers, or gender-transition surgeries.

What forms of care does the new law ban? Louisiana's new law bars doctors from prescribing hormones or hormone blockers to patients younger than 18, even if those patients have obtained parental consent for such treatment. Doctors also may not perform gender-transition surgeries on patients younger than 18, or sterilize patients younger than 18. The law does not prevent doctors from counseling patients struggling with gender identity issues, also called gender dysphoria. It also does not prevent doctors from performing surgeries on intersex patients – those with genitalia, reproductive organs or hormone levels that are neither typically male nor female. When does the law take effect? The new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and applies to all patients under the age of 18 in the state, including those insured under private plans.

However, patients currently taking hormones may transition off of them slowly, if their doctors determine that abruptly stopping those drugs would harm them, the law states. In those cases, the patients must fully stop taking hormones by Dec. 31, 2024.

What are the penalties for violations of the new law? Doctors caught violating the law could lose their licenses for at least two years. Patients who receive treatment in violation of the law -- or their parents -- can also sue doctors for damages in court. The attorney general can also sue to enforce compliance with the law.

How many other states have passed similar bans? Louisiana joins 19 other states that have passed similar bans on this sort of care in recent years. They include Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Montana, and several others. LGBTQ+ activists have challenged many of those bans in court.

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