Attorney General Andrew Bailey last week filed a lawsuit against St. Louis-based Southampton Healthcare alleging that it provided puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors without a mental health assessment. That was required by state law before such procedures were completely banned.
The state’s Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act became law Aug. 28. It was signed into law in June by Gov. Mike Parson.
“I would point out that health care professionals who are administering this kind of questionable experimentation can be held accountable by the professional licensure boards,” Bailey told the Washington Watch program Tuesday.
In a story last week, AFN reported the new state law threatens to take their license and bankrupt doctors and nurses who violate it, such as the transgender clinic at St. Louis Children's Hospital that prescribes body-altering hormones to children. The hospital announced it was ending that practice over fear of civil lawsuits, and a maximum of $500,000 in punitive damages, permitted by the new state law.
When SAFE went into effect, Bailey put five Missouri health care providers on notice – one being Southampton – with a letter warning them to immediately stop gender-manipulation procedures.
The other providers who received the same letter were Washington University in St. Louis; Children’s Mercy in Kansas City; Planned Parenthood in Great Plains; and St. Louis and AIDS Project of the Ozarks in Springfield, according to Fox News.
Before SAFE became law it withstood a legal challenge from Lambda Legal and the ACLU on behalf of Southampton.
“At the end of the day we were successful in our defense of the statute, the first state in the nation to successfully defend the statute from legal attack at trial court level," Bailey told show host Tony Perkins. "And now we’re going to go back on offense and use their own testimony against them."
In an odd case of irony, expert testimony from witnesses called by Southampton Healthcare opened the door for the lawsuit it now faces. Bailey’s lawsuit says those Southampton witnesses “acknowledged in open court that providing these (gender-manipulation) interventions, without a comprehensive mental health assessment, is contrary to the medical standard of care.”
The witnesses supported the interventions but agreed they would not be provided unless the patient had first been subjected to “a comprehensive psychological evaluation.”
Acting on behalf of the State of Missouri, Attorney General Bailey recalled he filed a counterclaim because the witnesses admitted the "accepted standard of care" for minors is a mental health assessment.
"If their own experts are saying that kids should be getting these mental health services, I have evidence that contradicts that they were actually doing that," he said. "Now we’re going to hold wrongdoers accountable. They put a marker down, and we’re going to hold them accountable to that marker."
'A live son or dead daughter'
Bailey said his investigation also showed that parents were “coerced” into submitting their children to these procedures.
“The evidence we have is that some of these patients, the clinics would target the parent most likely to acquiesce to demands for consent," he recalled. "They were told things like, ‘Do you want a live son or a dead daughter?’ Therefore, the clinic was injecting a suicidal idea into a conversation where it didn’t exist before."
Not only does that harm a child with mental health conditions, Bailey said, it makes it worse and amounts to "coercion" by a health care provider.
There are other legal courses of action he could pursue, the attorney general said, but the "strongest and most potent" is a civil cause of action with a 15-year statue of limitations.
“What we know is a lot of time the negative healthcare implications, the negative reaction that the human body faces after undergoing these procedures, doesn’t materialize in the normal statute of limitations," he said, referring to the statue of limitations. "So there needs to be extra time so these victims can bring their claims.”