Missouri’s court battle over gender-affirming care prompts some to seek surgery under deadline

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 10:38 PM CDT
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CLINTON, Mo. (KCTV) - As a fight ensues in the courts over the Missouri attorney general’s emergency order restricting gender-affirming care, some people are rushing to schedule surgeries before it’s too late.

The protests that erupted when that rule was about to go into effect last week were in cities like Kansas City and St. Louis. But, the lives it’s impacting stretch across the state.

Oliver Caldwell lives along a gravel road on the rural outskirts of Clinton, Missouri, with his wife and their 5-year-old daughter Nova.

Evenings involve watering their garden, feeding their 14 chickens, their four guinea pigs, and now the four ducklings they found abandoned on the side of the road just yesterday. Nova sweetly follows instructions when told to sit up straight but also gets time to let her sillies loose.

“I knew I wanted to get married. I knew I wanted a kid. I knew I wanted all these things,” Caldwell said. “My wife and I knew each other from kindergarten until we graduated together in high school.”

When he hit puberty, it all felt wrong. He started binding his chest with compression bandages when he was 12. Over 10 years’ time, it has damaged his ribs. He had a breast removal set up for July. Then, last month, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey set forth “emergency regulation” that applies to both minors and adults like Caldwell.

“They’re not trusting me to know my body well enough to do something that I’ve wanted since I was a child,” Caldwell remarked. “I’m just here to live my life as comfortably as I can.”

Among other things, the attorney general’s rule requires 18 months of psychotherapy sessions before seeking intervention like hormone therapy or surgery. Caldwell consulted a therapist and psychologist four years ago. He waited nearly a year before beginning hormone replacement therapy.

The attorney general’s rule also dictates a doctor must first “ensure that any existing mental health comorbidities of the patient have been treated and resolved.”

“It says you have to resolve those things,” Caldwell emphasized, “and I cannot resolve my autism.”

A judge on Monday paused the rule for 14 days. So, Caldwell is now rushing to get the surgery scheduled for next Tuesday.

“I have to also rush my nurses and my doctors, and I do not want to rush my health care professionals in doing that kind of thing,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And that uncertainty, as well as all the other uncertainties in my life, it just adds up.”

He said he could get care in Kansas, but his insurance won’t cover out-of-state and getting the hormone drugs would require a monthly drive to a Kansas pharmacy to pay out-of-pocket.

The judge who put the rules on hold is expected to make a longer-term decision on May 11.