OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has signed a measure that involves nearly $40 million from federal stimulus funds going toward a new pediatric mental health facility at OU Health.

However, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money cannot be used to perform “gender reassignment medical treatment” on minors, according to House Bill 1007.

copy of the measure shows that $39.4 million would go toward the construction and equipment needed for the facility as long as the funds are not used to perform gender reassignment medical treatment on children under the age of 18. 

The bill explains the term as “any health care to facilitate the transitioning of a patient’s assigned gender identity on the patient’s birth certificate, to the gender identity experienced and defined by the patient.” 

It clarifies that this includes: “interventions to suppress the development of endogenous secondary sex characteristics, interventions to align the patient’s appearance or physical body with the patient’s gender identity and medical therapies and medical intervention used to treat gender dysphoria.” 

However, according to the bill, the term does not include, “behavioral healthcare services or mental health counseling, medications to treat depression and anxiety or services provided to individuals born with ambiguous genitalia, incomplete genitalia, or both male and female anatomy, or biochemically verifiable disorder of sex development.” 

“If you had someone that was transgender and they have depression, they can get services for depression in this just like anybody else,” said Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufala. “But the bill is not going to treat anything that gives you something that you’re choosing to do.”

Critics of the measure are calling it a direct attack on the transgender community. 

“When we have a legislature that is willing to hold about $40 million in ARPA funds hostage and an institution that is overly eager to comply. This could cost lives, especially trans lives, in our state. We want to make clear that trans children in our state are not a bargaining chip,” said Cindy Nguyen, the policy director at the ACLU of Oklahoma. 

A spokeswoman for OU Health sent KFOR the following statement: 

“ARPA provides a major opportunity for our state to invest and partner in projects which will have significant health benefits for Oklahomans. The funding will modernize our technical infrastructure, bring National Cancer Institute-level cancer care to northeast Oklahoma and allow us to deliver the most advanced inpatient and outpatient resources in the country for young people who need mental and behavioral health care. The Legislature restricted the use of the funds from benefitting facilities performing certain gender medicine services. The new mental and behavioral health facility was never intended to provide such care. The OU Health Senior Leadership team is proactively planning the ceasing of certain gender medicine services across our facilities and that plan is already under development.

As the state’s flagship academic health system, OU Health remains committed to providing excellent, comprehensive medical care to all patients while following all state and federal laws and regulatory governing bodies.  

We appreciate our long-standing, collaborative relationship with the Legislature, and we look forward to future efforts to move our institution and our state forward.”

APRIL SANDEFER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, OU HEALTH

On Tuesday, Gov. Stitt signed SB 3XX into law. The measure went into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

“By signing this bill today we are taking the first step to protect children from permanent gender transition surgeries and therapies. It is wildly inappropriate for taxpayer dollars to be used for condoning, promoting, or performing these types of controversial procedures on healthy children,” said Governor Stitt.

Stitt said that while he believes it is good news that the hospital is stopping some gender medicine services, it does not go far enough.

He called for the Legislature to ban permanent gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors statewide.

“I am calling for the Legislature to ban all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors when they convene next session in February 2023. We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happening all across our nation, and as governor I will not allow life-altering transition surgeries on minor children in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.

The ACLU of Oklahoma issued the following statement after the measure was signed:

“Today, Oklahoma politicians took the next step in joining their colleagues in Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas, by attacking lifesaving, best-practice medical care for Oklahoma’s transgender youth. Medical decisions belong to patients, their parents, and their doctors. Yet politicians, attempting to appeal to their base during an election year, have continued their attacks on bodily autonomy by coming between those directly impacted and the care they need and deserve.
 
Medical experts agree: Gender-affirming care is medically necessary care. And today’s actions, along with the displays on the House and Senate floors, show a fundamental ignorance about medical treatment for transgender youth. Trans youth thrive when their families and communities care and support their gender identities, and access to best practice medical care is a necessary part of that support. The ACLU of Oklahoma is determined to keep fighting, similar to our own colleagues across the country, until this baseless law, and all future attacks, are struck down.”

 Tamya Cox-Toure, ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director