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U.K. temporarily criminalizes puberty blockers for trans kids

Doctor in foreground holding sample of prescription or recipe for drug, other hand indicates designation of prescription medication, which means issuing medicines by pharmacist only on prescription
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The United Kingdom’s government just issued an emergency order to temporarily ban and criminalize the usage of puberty blockers for transgender minors, independent journalist Erin Reed reports.

This criminalization is unprecedented and has not been seen in any other country. It could lead to prison sentences of up to two years, Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project told Reed.

Notice of the policy was sent out on Wednesday, when the U.K. Department of Health and Social Care announced restrictions on puberty blockers as an emergency order from Conservative Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Victoria Atkins.

The restrictions on puberty blockers include a grandfather clause for minors who are currently prescribed them by U.K.-based medical providers. However, this will effectively end transitional care for many. Due to the notoriously long waitlists from the National Health Service, the majority of those transitioning are doing so through private care via GenderGP, a private practice based in Singapore, Reed reported.

The emergency order bans the following medications: buserelin, gonadorelin, goserelin, leuprorelin acetate, nafarelin or triptorelin. The ban applies to England, Scotland, and Wales. It does not apply to Northern Ireland.

The ban starts on June 3, 2024 and will end on September 3, 2024.

Additionally, the ban does not apply to hormone replacement therapy, only puberty blockers.

Today, NHS England sent a letter to patients currently on the waiting list for puberty blockers outlining the restrictions. The letter stated, “It will also be a criminal offense to possess these medicines, where the individual had reasonable cause to know that the medicine had been sold or supplied in breach of the ban.”

This type of emergency prohibition is extremely rare. The last time it was used was 25 years ago, when a herb in Chinese medicine was linked to two deaths and had many experts from the UK government weighing in.

The restrictions follow others implemented in England, Scotland, and Wales earlier this year which paused additional prescriptions of puberty blockers. These prescriptions only applied to the NHS and allowed for private doctors to prescribe them still, something now voided by the current restrictions.

The NHS in England placed additional restrictions on the prescription of puberty blockers, continuing a trend in previous national legislation.

These restrictions are the result of the Cass Review, an infamous non-governmental review put out by Dr. Hillary Cass, a pediatrician who has never worked with a transgender patient. The review claimed that puberty blockers have minimal scientific backing proving their effectiveness.

Cass has met with officials appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to discuss Florida’s policies on gender-affirming care. She had Dr. Rittakerttu Kaltiala as an advisor to her review, a conservative media darling who has been making appearances in news outlets and courtrooms across the world to oppose gender-affirming care.

The Cass Review has been widely criticized for inaccurately representing the science on puberty blockers and gender-affirming care as a whole, particularly in regards to its dismissal of many studies within its literature review.

Additionally, organizations like the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the United States Professional Association for Transgender Health, the Endocrine Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have rebuked the Cass Review, stating that it inaccurately summarizes the state of the science and should not have been relied upon for these sweeping decisions.

Cass dismissed the AAP as “left-leaning,” claiming they’re biased in their views. The AAP is a widely regarded medical organization, and Cass cited no evidence of its alleged political bias.

The Good Law Project is planning on a legal challenge to the emergency order, and is currently soliciting donations.

Former prime minister Liz Truss said to Sky News that she “welcomed” the ban. 

Representatives from the government called it a “landmark decision” and claimed it was in children’s best interests.

Trans healthcare advocates in the U.K. are outraged at the government’s decision.

Dr. Jo Hartland, an ex-NHS doctor, said, “I cannot understand the medical community’s silence and complicity in the direction trans healthcare is going If you aren’t campaigning for your trans patients I better not see a single one of you at Prides sharing some sh*t about ‘love=love’”

LGBTQ advocacy group LGB With The T said, “In an act of abuse and cowardess [sic], the Conservatives have decided that trans kids are worthless and do not deserve the same treatment as kids who aren’t trans.”

“They have banned trans kids from puberty blockers, whilst allowing kids who aren’t trans to carry on taking them.”

GenderGP said in a statement, “GenderGP are shocked at the attitude and behavior of the U.K. government in targeting trans youth. Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under The Equality Act 2010, and it stands that every trans adult was once a trans child and we know that gender-affirming care has proven benefits.”

“We know that the interference in medicine and healthcare by the government will lead to serious harm for millions of patients and even death including those within the trans community. We remain committed to working with the government and the community to find solutions to prevent harm wherever it exists,” Gender GP added.

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