Gov. Tate Reeves shares a laugh with Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, left, and Rep. Gene Newman, R-Pearl, at a bill signing Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, where he signed into law legislation banning gender-affirming care for trans minors. To the right, Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh joins Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, in preparing for a news conference. Credit: Molly Minta/Mississippi Today

Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law Tuesday a bill banning gender-affirming care for trans minors in Mississippi, calling it part of “a war on objective scientific truth” and “basic biology.” 

Effective immediately, Mississippi’s estimated 2,400 trans children will no longer be able to receive gender-affirming care like puberty blockers and hormone therapy from in-state providers. The legal risk for trans children and their families seeking care out of state is unclear. 

House Bill 1125, called the “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act, would strip doctors who provide this care of their medical license and tort claim protections. Anyone who aids and abets this care for trans children could be liable for civil damages for up to 30 years after a child receives gender-affirming care. Insurers and Medicaid would be prohibited from reimbursing families for this care. 

Reeves cast the law as a way to protect Mississippi’s children but during a press conference would not say if he had spoken with a single child in Mississippi who had been harmed by gender-affirming care. 

“I’m not going to reveal private conversations that I’ve had, but I will tell you that I don’t have to,” he said. “I think it’s just intuitive to them that it’s happening here, and if you listen to some of these children that allow themselves to go through this and talk to them five years later, talk to them 10 years later, what you’re going to find is, it has been harmful to them in ways.” 

Gender-affirming care is evidence-based and research has shown it significantly reduces suicidality in trans youth who receive it. 

Advocates and providers like Stacie Pace, a nurse practitioner who owns the only clinic in the state that provided gender-affirming care to trans kids this year, have warned that HB 1125’s passage will harm the mental health of trans youth in Mississippi. 

“The number one thing, if this bill goes into effect? A lot of dead kids,” Pace told Mississippi Today earlier this month. “This law goes into effect, it is, in my opinion, the direct cause of youth suicide.” 

HB 1125 is part of a wave of anti-trans legislation this year in Mississippi and across the country. It was one of more than 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced by lawmakers this session. Its signing makes Mississippi the third state to ban gender-affirming care for minors this year after Utah and South Dakota

Similar legislation passed in Arkansas and Alabama has been stayed by the courts. It’s unclear if there will be a legal challenge to HB 1125 in Mississippi. 

“To trans youth in Mississippi, we love you, I love you, you have support,” said Jensen Luke Matar, a trans activist who joined a small protest on the steps of the Walter Sillers Building. “Don’t give up. Be strong. Be exactly who you are, because you are beautiful and perfect.” 

Reeves was joined at the press conference by Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh, who gave a short speech, as well as several Republican activists and representatives from the Alliance Defending Freedom and Madison County Moms for Liberty. 

Walsh said he was encouraged to see Mississippi join the national movement that he has helped build against “gender ideology madness.” He said the ban on gender-affirming care is similar to other accesses that American society denies children, like alcohol, credit card accounts and mortgages.  

“The kids cannot choose any of this,” he said. “They cannot consent to it. They can’t understand what they’re doing, and what the long-term effects or even short term effects are gonna be.” 

Reeves echoed Walsh later in the press conference about the importance of age restrictions.

“I’m highly against 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds getting these types of surgeries, but the Libertarian in me kind of says if that’s what you want to do to your body, okay, but not to children,” he said. 

The ban on puberty blockers for trans children, Reeves said, will likely apply even in cases in which a trans child needs medication for a non-gender-dysphoria related condition like precocious puberty. Reeves did not speak in detail when asked by a reporter if it will now be more risky for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers to any Mississippi child simply because they might be trans. 

Also in attendance were the co-authors of the bill, Rep. Gene Newman, R-Pearl, Rep. Nick Bain, R-Corinth, and House Speaker Philip Gunn. Sen. Joey Fillingane, who handled the bill’s passage in the Senate, joined the press conference in time to take a photo with Reeves and other lawmakers. 

READ MORE: Mississippi lawmaker cited trans teen surgeries that never actually happened

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Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today. She works in partnership with Open Campus, a nonprofit news organization focused on investigating higher education. Originally from Melbourne Beach, Florida, Molly reported on public housing and prosecutors in her home state and worked as a fact-checker at The Nation before joining Mississippi Today. Her story on Mississippi's only class on critical race theory was a finalist for the Education Writers Association National Awards for Education Reporting in 2023 in the feature reporting category.