Senate Armed Services Committee Advances Restrictions on Medical Care for Transgender Servicemembers

July 10, 2024 5:36 pm

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In a dangerous and discriminatory attack on transgender members of the armed forces, the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that specifically prohibits the Department of Defense from providing gender-affirming surgeries to transgender servicemembers or insurance coverage for any gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth whose parents are serving in the military. If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the amendment would be the first restriction of any kind on gender-affirming medical care written into federal law.

“This is a dangerous affront to the rights and freedom of transgender servicemembers with no financial, legal, political, or medical justification,” said Ian Thompson, Senior Legislative Advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union. “These treatments serve as the foundation of the lives transgender people lead, lives that trans servicemembers have offered in service to the United States armed forces. If allowed to stand, these restrictions will be a deep and lasting betrayal of their service and President Biden’s commitment, as their commander-in-chief, to have their back. It is absolutely essential for the Senate majority to ensure that these devastating health care restrictions are removed from the National Defense Authorization Act.”

Within a week of his inauguration, President Joe Biden reversed the military’s ban on transgender servicemembers first implemented by President Donald Trump. The ban was the subject of multiple lawsuits including Stone v. Trump which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Maryland, and Covington & Burling LLP on behalf of twelve members of the armed forces who are transgender.

The amendments in the current version of the NDAA prohibit the Department of Defense from providing “sex change surgeries” and prohibit TRICARE from providing insurance coverage for puberty blockers and hormone treatments for transgender youth of servicemembers. According to a 2016 RAND Corp. study commissioned by the Department of Defense, gender-affirming medical care for transgender servicemembers represents just 0.13% of the Pentagon’s entire budget for medical care of all servicemembers.

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