June 2 (Reuters) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday signed a bill that bans transgender healthcare including puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors, making Texas the largest of the 20 states to have outlawed gender-affirming care.
Republican lawmakers across the country have promoted similar bills, saying they mistrust the consensus among major medical associations that endorse gender-affirming care as needed and even life-saving for trans youth after extensive evaluation.
Texas, the second most-populous U.S. state, has an estimated 29,800 transgender youth aged 13 to 17, according to the Williams Institute of UCLA.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have pledged to fight the law in court, as they have similar legislation in other states.
"They (Texas lawmakers) are hellbent on joining the growing roster of states determined to jeopardize the health and lives of transgender youth, in direct opposition to the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence," the ACLU said in a statement when the bill passed the legislature.
The Texas law creates exceptions for minors who began treatment before June 1 or for those who attended 12 or more sessions of mental health counseling or psychotherapy for at least six months.
But those patients "shall wean off the prescription drug over a period of time," the law says.
Backers of such laws say government must intervene against the wishes of parents and doctors because they fear it will cause irreparable harm and say children are incapable of acceding to such decisions.
Groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose the legislation.
Republicans introduced more than 500 bills affecting LGBTQ people in 2023, with more than 50 passing, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group. Those numbers are up from 315 bills introduced and 29 passed in 2022.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Edwina Gibbs