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Utah’s Republican governor defends the state’s new ban on gender-affirming care.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox defended a bill he signed last month that prohibits transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming medical care on Sunday, saying he wants more data on the effects of such treatments.

In an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Cox, a Republican, said, “It’s not just about providing care or not providing care; it’s about whether we might potentially be harming young people, not having enough evidence to see what the long-term results of this are and providing better psychiatric help for those young people who are going through this.”

When asked by host Chuck Todd if he is comfortable with children seeking gender-affirming care away from their parents, Cox said the ban puts accessibility on “pause” until there is “better data.”

“Well, we take a lot of power away from [parents] when it comes to our children. “If there is a risk of long-term harm to our children, we must investigate,” Cox said. “And what Utah did was just push pause until we get better data. The bill requires us to go out and look at the best data available across the country before making a decision.”

Transgender rights have “become such a toxic issue that it’s difficult to have a rational conversation,” according to Cox, who later added that “I’d feel a lot better if we could get past the culture war and have these kinds of rational discussions.”

After Cox signed the bill late last month, about a week after it passed in the Legislature, Utah became the first state this year to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors.

The legislation, which places an indefinite moratorium on minors’ access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy, is prospective, which means that transgender youths who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria prior to the date it goes into effect will be able to receive care if they meet a set of criteria.

Cox said in a statement after signing the bill that legislation affecting “our most vulnerable youth” requires “careful consideration and deliberation.”

“While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue,” said Cox, referring to the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Michael Kennedy. “While we recognise that our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that as we work to better understand the science and consequences of these procedures, we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect.”

Cox vetoed a bill last year that would have prohibited transgender students from participating in girls’ sports. In an emotional letter explaining his veto, he cited research about the high risk of suicide among trans youths.

“I’m not sure what they’re going through or why they’re feeling the way they do. “However, I want them to live,” Cox wrote. “And all of the research shows that even a small amount of acceptance and connection can significantly reduce suicidality.”

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