Gender-affirming care bans carry significant penalties for physicians

A new article from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine finds that state laws and policies banning gender-affirming care for minors include a range of penalties for physicians that continue to provide care.

The state legislation establishes four types of penalties for physicians: medical license disciplinary action; legal action against physicians, which can include extending malpractice statutes of limitations; legal action by the state; and felony criminal charges. Many of the laws also change standard practices around informed consent and define the “practice of medicine” to exclude medically necessary gender-affirming care.

Key Findings

  • Almost all of the state laws allow for or require state licensing boards to take disciplinary action against physicians who provide gender-affirming care, including revocation of their medical license.
  • Many state laws also allow private citizens to bring lawsuits against physicians for providing gender-affirming care and extend the timeframe for filing these suits up to 30 years.
  • State law allows officials in several states to take civil legal action against physicians who provide gender-affirming care.
  • Some states also criminalize physicians for providing gender-affirming care, making provision of care a felony punishable by fines and prison time.

“Physicians are finding themselves in legal limbo, straddling state laws that ban gender-affirming care and federal law, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of gender identity,” said author Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute. “Even if blocked by courts, these bans may have a chilling effect on physicians and impact access to gender-affirming care in many states across the U.S.”

“These laws targeting providers of gender-affirming care will affect the broader medical community,” said study author Madeline G. Chin, Research Fellow at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. “The targeting of physicians through these legal penalties impedes them from practicing evidence-based medicine and blocks patients from accessing standard of care treatments.”

About the Study

The article, “Legal Penalties for Physicians Providing Gender-Affirming Care” appears in JAMA and is co-authored by Christy Mallory, J.D., Madeline G. Chin B.A., and Justine C. Lee, M.D., Ph.D.

Read the full report online

June 6, 2023

Media Contact: Rachel Dowd
Office: 310-206-8982

Next Press Release

Los Angeles study finds most sex workers don’t know that carrying condoms cannot be used as evidence of sex work in California

A new study of looks at experiences in sex work, including interactions with law enforcement, sexual risk behaviors, and condom-carrying practices