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Missouri AG Advances Anti-Trans Policy, Citing Disputed Whistleblower Claims

In an interview last week with Tony Perkins, leader of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey said he based his new emergency administrative regulation limiting access to gender-affirming healthcare on disputed accounts of a supposed whistleblower at a Missouri hospital.

The AG’s regulation, which was announced March 20, “side-stepped” the state legislature, which had refused to pass model legislation known as the SAFE Act. Drafted by FRC, the SAFE Act seeks to ban gender-affirming care for minors. Bailey’s order came on the same day the extremist group Gays Against Groomers held a rally, promoted by FRC, at the state Capitol to pressure the Senate to end a filibuster blocking the ban.

Missouri Capitol rally
A Missouri state Capitol rally to support legislation banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors attracted both supporters and opponents on March 20 in Jefferson City, hours after the attorney general issued emergency rules aimed at halting the treatments. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

In the interview, which was posted on FRC’s “Washington Watch” YouTube show the day after Bailey announced his new regulations, the Missouri attorney general claimed “at least one” Missouri clinic “is performing transgender procedures on minors without proper informed consent,” citing a hotly disputed report by a former case worker at a Missouri Children’s Hospital. Bailey seemingly admitted to uncertainty about the full accuracy of the whistleblower's claim, telling Perkins: “These are scary allegations. And if even 10% of these allegations are true, this is nothing short of child abuse.” This, he argued, justified his emergency order restricting access to care. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health noted the dubious nature of Bailey’s claims, issuing a statement saying that the evidence presented to justify the emergency regulations was “either taken out of context, cherry-picked, or from unverified sources.”

Andrew Bailey
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office in Jefferson City, Missouri, on Jan. 3. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

Bailey’s press release and Twitter thread announcing the new regulations heavily relied on debunked claims about transgender identity. The press release quoted one pseudoscientific article’s conclusion that many people “incorrectly believe themselves to be transgender.” The study did not use data from transgender people, and the journal that ran it eventually issued corrections and an apology. Its author, Lisa Littman, is an anti-transgender activist who popularized the pseudoscientific claim that transgender identity spreads through social contagion among young people. Littman serves on the board of the extremist group GenSpect, which supports banning gender-affirming healthcare for young people and many adults. (Pseudoscience is a term that applies to conclusions we assume were produced by following the scientific method or best practices within a specific field of study but are not actually scientific.)

Tony Perkins
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins delivers remarks at the opening of the council's Value Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel on Sept. 21, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Perkins and Bailey amplified the pseudoscientific social contagion claim in their “Washington Watch” conversation. Bailey told Perkins, without citing any clear evidence, that “there is a clandestine shadowy industry for gender mutilation” and that he must “put a stop to it.” Such claims have fueled online harassment of children’s hospitals across the country, leading some to suspend patient care, increase security and even face bomb threats. In an appearance on Fox News, Bailey accused healthcare professionals of a financial motives in offering gender-affirming care. He claimed patients would get "addicted" to "mental health procedures and mental health treatments." He did not offer any examples or evidence of such an occurrence. 

In his appearance with Perkins, Bailey cited his religious beliefs as informing his emergency action. “At the end of the day, God made man and woman,” he said, adding that those who disagree with his religious views about gender identity are “unhealthy … in the same way that it is unhealthy to deny the law of gravity.” He said he intends for the state to intervene to “protect kids from parents” who affirm their children’s gender identity. He said such parents “want to make harmful decisions or don’t have the proper information.”

On March 23, Bailey announced a tip line for people to report "questionable gender transition interventions."

Bailey did not respond to a request for comment directed to his office about his regulations and their potential impact.

FRC pushing anti-trans legislation

In the interview, Bailey notes the Missouri legislature had to that point refused to adopt a ban on gender-affirming healthcare. The ban, called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act, or SAFE Act, was drafted by FRC, who lobbies state legislatures across the country to implement the model legislation. Democratic senators in the state legislature had successfully filibustered passage of SAFE Act in Missouri until the day after Bailey’s announcement. The act was introduced by Republican state Sen. Mike Moon.

Mike Moon
Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon speaks in his Capitol office on Feb. 1, 2022, in Jefferson City, Missouri. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb)

FRC’s model SAFE Act would not only ban gender-affirming care for minors, but it would also strictly define the terms “gender” and “sex” as immutable in state laws, promote anti-trans pseudoscience in legislative findings that courts use to interpret the intent of such laws, prohibit private insurers from covering gender-affirming healthcare, and create a “cause of action” against medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care. FRC has criticized such states as Tennessee, which adopted more lenient versions of the act.

PROMO Missouri, the state’s LGBTQ advocacy group, has criticized Moon’s bill for “overlooking” standard healthcare practices and ignoring recommendations from groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – which opposes such bans and notes the connection between affirmation and positive health outcomes for transgender people.

The week before Bailey’s announcement, Sen. Moon also appeared on Perkins’ “Washington Watch” show and called for activists to attend a rally at the state Capitol the following Monday. That rally – which FRC’s website also promoted via a link – was billed as the Missouri Kids FIRST Rally, a framing popular with anti-LGBTQ groups that suggests transgender rights are harmful to children.

The protest was organized by anti-transgender activists, including the group Gays Against Groomers (GAG), and was intended to put pressure on state senators to end their filibuster of the SAFE Act. The rally organizer’s website, however, focused on a Missouri children’s hospital as “the very source of the problem,” and local news reports documented that many of the speakers also focused critiques on the same hospital.

In remarks at the rally, GAG Missouri chapter leader Chris Barrett dismissed the very existence of transgender identity. He said most transgender kids are “just gay” kids who are being forced to transition by their parents and permissive medical practices. GAG leadership, including the group’s director of chapters Mario "Presents" Estrada, has been tied to the hate group the Proud Boys, members of which have previously rallied with GAG’s Florida chapter leadership. GAG’s founder, Jamiee Michell, previously blamed gender-affirming healthcare for the 2022 murder of five patrons at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, saying violence targeting LGBTQ people will not stop “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming healthcare.

Michael Edison Hayden contributed reporting.

Photo illustration by SPLC (L-R, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon and Tony Perkins)

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