GOP lawmaker pushes bill that would punish doctors who provide trans youth health care

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Anthony Sabatini is running for Congress as 'the most conservative member of Florida's state legislature.'

A Florida lawmaker is trying to make it a criminal offense for doctors to provide gender-affirming health care to transgender youth.

Last month, Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini introduced a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for health care providers to give gender-affirming care — such as administering hormone therapy and puberty blockers — to minors.

If the bill becomes law, Florida physicians could be fined up to $1,000 or spend up to a year in jail for providing transition-related care to young people, Florida Politics reported.

The bill was referred to state House committees for review on Oct. 6. Republicans control both chambers of the Florida state legislature as well as the governor's office.

If passed, the law would go into effect in July 2022 and could provide a template for conservatives in other states seeking to restrict or even criminalize trans health care.

Sabatini, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, has called himself "the most conservative member of Florida's state legislature." He's now running for Florida's 7th Congressional District against incumbent Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy, who took office in 2017.

The district includes the cities of Orlando, Maitland, and Winter Park, as well as the University of Central Florida. Murphy is the first Vietnamese American woman and the second Vietnamese American overall to be elected to Congress.

In February, Sabatini introduced a similar bill targeting gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and prohibiting transgender athletes from playing on the sports team of their gender. On June 1, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a transgender sports ban into law.

Still, Sabatini's most recent anti-trans bill may not pass the state legislature — in part because of Sabatini's own poor relationship with Republican Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls.

In September, Sprowls moved Sabatini's legislative office to the basement of the Florida House of Representatives. In response, Sabatini called Sprowls a "RINO" — Republican in name only — and a "beta" male.

Sprowls "moved my legislative office because he's BIG mad I call him out," Sabatini tweeted last month. "This year I'm filing a mental health & wellness Bill to help fragile people like Sprowls."

Republican state lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills this year, including several bills that target transgender kids' participation in sports and access to health care.

Eight states have passed laws or implemented executive orders this year that prohibit transgender student athletes from playing on the team corresponding to their gender.

In Arkansas, state lawmakers overrode the Republican governor's veto in April to enact a law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The law prohibits insurance coverage for gender transition procedures, and physicians who violate the law could lose their license and face discipline from their review board. A federal judge blocked the law in July.

Bills like Sabatini's go further than the Arkansas law by pushing for jail time.

Examples of other extreme anti-trans bills include a bill Texas lawmakers championed that would label transition-related health care child abuse. Legislation in North Carolina that was introduced in April would have prohibited gender-affirming surgery for anyone under age 21. Those two measures did not pass.

Sabatini's bill is part of a larger GOP effort to rile up the party's base by opposing transgender rights, with a focus on the rights of transgender youth.

"This issue will help [the] GOP win midterms," said Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump.

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, has fixated on transgender youth repeatedly in his campaign and is spending time with anti-LGBTQ groups and figures.

In August, after facing criticism from Republican challenger Don Huffines, who says he's more supportive of restrictions on gender-affirming health care than the governor is, Abbott asked a Texas agency to look into whether it is child abuse to for health care providers to perform gender-affirming surgeries for minors.

In July, Jony Baker, a legislative aide to GOP Virginia state Sen. Travis Hackworth, said at an anti-trans rally held at a school in Wise, Virginia, "We got an election coming up this November, and I didn't come here to preach politics, but we gotta get that bunch out of Richmond."

In 2019, Terry Schilling, the head of the conservative think tank American Principles Project, told the New York Times his group is using transgender rights as a political testing ground.

"What we're doing is trying to show Republicans how to win on these key issues," Schilling said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.