by TYLER O’NEIL
A large number of pro-transgender medical interest groups have supported a legal challenge to Florida’s rule barring use of Medicaid funds to pay for controversial transgender medical interventions, after most of the same organizations fought in court to hide documents that Florida says are relevant to the case.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the Endocrine Society, along with 20 other health care advocacy groups, signed an amicus brief late last month opposing Florida’s rule.
The 23 organizations seek “to ensure that all individuals, including those with gender dysphoria, receive the optimal medical and mental healthcare they need and deserve. [The groups] represent thousands of healthcare providers who have specific expertise with the issues raised in this brief,” reads the brief, a copy of which was provided exclusively to The Daily Signal.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration in August declared that Medicaid would not cover “puberty blockers,” cross-sex hormones, “sex reassignment” surgeries, or other procedures that alter primary or secondary sex characteristics. LGBT and health activist groups led by Lambda Legal represent four young people who say they identify as transgender and filed a lawsuit in September aiming to block Florida’s rule.
As part of their lawsuit, the LGBT groups asked the court to block the rule temporarily while it considers the case. In denying that temporary injunction, the court ruled in October that the case centers on whether Florida’s determination that transgender interventions are “experimental” is “reasonable.”
Lambda Legal repeatedly cites AAP, WPATH, the Endocrine Society, and other medical groups in supporting its claim that describing transgender interventions as “experimental” is in fact not reasonable.
Yet numerous doctors, including former members and leaders of these groups, have testified against the “gender-affirming care” guidelines.
Dr. Stephen B. Levine, a psychiatrist and early proponent of transgender medical interventions, spent decades with the organization that became the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Recently, however, Levine has harshly criticized the group as “dominated by politics and ideology,” and condemned WPATH’s standards of care as “not an impartial or evidence-based document.”
Dr. Julia Mason, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, warned that “AAP has stifled debate on how best to treat youth in distress over their bodies, shut down efforts by critics to present better scientific approaches… and put its thumb on the scale… in favor of shoddy but politically correct research.”
Amid this larger Medicaid case, the Florida agency subpoenaed AAP, WPATH, the Endocrine Society, and the other organizations cited by Lambda Legal. The Agency for Health Care Administration requested documents related to their standards of care, what studies they examined to support “gender-affirming care,” any considerations of side effects and risks from these interventions, and communications with membership about these matters, among other things.
In a motion opposing the subpoena, the medical interest groups acknowledge that “there is no dispute that the WPATH and Endocrine Society guidelines are relevant to this case,” but they claim to have offered a compromise with AHCA, which the Florida agency refused.
After some negotiation in which the medical interest groups offered publicly available documents to the Agency for Health Care Administration, the groups went to court trying to quash the subpoenas. They argued that they should not be forced to hand over documents, in part because they are not direct parties to the case.
Yet not only are these groups the medical authorities by which Lambda Legal aims to torpedo the Florida rule, but most of the groups themselves filed the amicus brief April 28 that highlights their interest in the case.
“Casting themselves in the underlying case as the standard bearers of the prevailing scientific view regarding gender dysphoria treatment—and used as such by [Lambda Legal]—the non-parties now seek to shield their perspective from any scrutiny,” the Agency for Health Care Administration writes in a Jan. 20 reply to the motion to quash the subpoenas.
“The non-parties refuse to answer whether their perspective is the result of careful study and debate among their memberships or the result of a handful of people dictating a result, as a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested,” AHCA’s response adds.
The legal battle over the subpoenas is ongoing. A source familiar with the litigation told The Daily Signal that the night before depositions were to begin, the medical interest groups filed a stay with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the court has yet to rule on the motion. A trial on the subpoenas is expected to begin soon.
Even amid this battle, most of the groups fighting the subpoenas filed the amicus brief.
The groups write that “the widely accepted recommendation of the medical community, including that of the respected professional organizations participating here as amici, is that the standard of care for treating gender dysphoria is ‘gender-affirming care.’” The groups condemn “efforts to change the individual’s gender identity to match their assigned sex at birth” as being “known to be ineffective and harmful.”
The brief aims to dismiss the evidence of detransitioners—individuals such as Walt Heyer, Ted Halley, and Billy Burleigh, men who formerly identified as women and who had their bodies chemically and surgically altered only to regret those interventions later in life. The three men also wrote a brief supporting the Florida rule.