On Wednesday, a pretty remarkable thing happened in the Louisiana state Senate: The Republican chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, state Sen. Fred Mills, voted against moving a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for minors to the full Senate, killing the bill, at least for now. (Other Republicans are already pushing to bring the bill up for a floor vote by bypassing the committee process; more on that in a bit.) So for now at least, Louisiana is the only Southern state to to have rejected a ban on gender- affirming care. The vote gives trans kids and their families a bit of breathing room, not only in Louisiana but also in nearby states that have banned the lifesaving care that’s endorsed by every major medical and pediatric professional association in the country.
Possibly even more remarkable: Mills, a pharmacist, said he decided to vote against the bill because he had paid attention to the testimony during hearings, and had read a report the Louisiana Department of Health published in March. That report reviewed Medicaid statistics between 2017 and 2021 and found there had been exactly zero surgeries for gender reassignment performed on minors in Louisiana. What’s more, in the same period, very few Louisiana minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria — just 14.6 percent — received either puberty blockers or hormone therapy, and among those who did, the vast majority, more than 75 percent, were 15 to 17 years old. What’s more, the report found that trans minors who did receive such care had better mental health, and that there was an extremely low rate of patients who later regretted getting the treatment — about one percent, which is lower than the two or maybe four percent regret rates for breast enhancement that we found in an extremely cursory search (we ignored the stats from law firms).
So hey, Mills decided, not exactly an issue needing the state to interfere in medical decisions made by families and their doctors.
Mills told the Louisiana Illuminator — and could we please have more newspapers with 19th Century names like that? — that the report didn’t back up the wild claims made by the people wanting to ban gender-affirming care.
“My decision was really, really based on the numbers,” Mills said. “All the testimony I heard by the proponents that children are getting mutilated, I didn’t see it in the statistics.”
It was a pretty big setback for the fascist busybodies who think families and their doctors shouldn’t be allowed to decide on the health care they believe is appropriate, as indy journalist Erin Reed points out. Louisiana’s House had voted for the ban, House Bill 648, 71 to 27, which led to an intense effort by LGBTQ rights advocates to educate Louisiana senators about the medical data. Ultimately, though, Mills seems to have been most influenced by the report from the state health department, which Reed points out is in line with most reliable academic research, as well as the positions of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Reed adds that, up to now, the Louisiana report has gotten comparatively little attention, in contrast to a seriously sketchy 2022 report that the government of Florida commissioned in support of Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for patients on Medicaid. That Florida report claimed — against the consensus of American medical associations — that gender-affirming care is “experimental” and “harmful.”
But wait, hold the fuck on: The Florida report was politically tainted garbage full of manipulated data, and was sharply criticized in a review by several healthcare researchers (and a law prof for good measure) at Yale University:
We are alarmed that Florida’s health care agency has adopted a purportedly scientific report that so blatantly violates the basic tenets of scientific inquiry. The report makes false statements and contains glaring errors regarding science, statistical methods, and medicine. Ignoring established science and longstanding, authoritative clinical guidance, the report instead relies on biased and discredited sources, including purported “expert” reports that carry no scientific weight due to lack of expertise and bias.
So repeated and fundamental are the errors in the June 2 Report that it seems clear that the report is not a serious scientific analysis but, rather, a document crafted to serve a political agenda.
Politically skewed medical “research” from Ron DeSantis’s medical bureaucracy, which is presided over by antivaxxer quack Joseph Ladapo? Well fetch our salts.
Oh, and it gets worse, as Reed explains:
In a lawsuit aiming to reverse Florida’s Medicaid ban, the discovery process unearthed documents from the Florida Surgeon General’s Office. These papers reveal the unambiguous objective of the research: to arrive at an outcome where “care is effectively banned.”
Gee, massaging the data to force a conclusion you prefer seems to be some kind of trend in Florida’s politicized healthcare bureaucracy. Whenever DeSantis is finally gone, the entire state health apparatus will need to be de-Ladapofied.
Reed also notes the report was written by members of the rightwing “American College of Pediatricians,” a hate group whose name mimics that of the legitimate American Academy of Pediatrics, but which is explicitly anti-LGBTQ and endorses “conversion therapy” to torture the gay and trans out of people.
But back to Louisiana: The reaction of the anti-trans bigots has been swift. The state Republican Party — repeating the lie about “genital mutilation surgery” that the state report showed isn’t happening — called for the state Senate to “override the committee vote” and to put HB 648 on the floor where it can be passed by all the sensible Rs who don’t bother with facts.
If it gets that far, Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, seems likely to veto the bill, but the Rs have just enough seats in the Lege to override, even if Mills voted against. But who knows? Maybe Mills has a friend or two who also know how to read!
National anti-trans bigots have also called on the Internet Flying Monkey Hate Brigade to go after Sen. Mills, as the Illuminator illuminates:
“Fred Mills has sided with the butchers and groomers,” Matt Walsh, a conservative commentator tweeted to his nearly 2 million followers. “He will regret it. This is the biggest mistake of his political career, and also the end of his career. He’s going to be infamous and disgraced by his own base. We’ll make sure of that.”
The paper notes drily that Mills is term limited, and hasn’t said whether he’ll seek another office when his term ends. Other prominent wingnuts have been more explicit, like some asshole named Greg Price, who told his nearly 300,000 Twitter followers to “let Senator Mills know how you feel about him single-handedly killing this bill to ban sex changes for kids” and helpfully directed them to his state Senate website for his contact details. (The phone numbers appear to only be for his office, fortunately.)
The stupidest fucking response came from one Andy Ross, the president of something calling itself the “State Freedom Caucus Network,” who suggested that Mills himself must be some sort of drag performer perv, because
“This RINO Republican – Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills – once dressed in drag as a 1st grader in a TV commercial. And now he just killed the bill that would ban transgender surgeries on minors.”
Sen. Mills told the Illuminator he isn’t worrying about the rightwing backlash:
“Why should I?,” Mills said in an interview. […] “They don’t live in District 22. They don’t have a 337 area code.”
“I didn’t run for office to serve those people.”
“Always in my heart of hearts have I believed that a decision should be made by a patient and a physician. I believe in the physicians in Louisiana. […] I believe in the scope of practice. I believe in the standard of care.”
Yes, we checked, and the man really is a Republican, and has a perfect score from National Right to Life, the antiabortion group. But on this bill, he saw the research and made the rational decision. And for now, trans folks in Louisiana and their families can breathe a little sigh of relief.
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