Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State address on February 6 in Oklahoma City.
CNN  — 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law Monday banning gender-affirming care for minors with the possibility of a felony charge for health care professionals who provide it.

Senate Bill 613 bars health care professionals from providing gender-affirming care to those under the age of 18 in the form of surgeries, puberty blocking medication and hormone treatments. A health care provider accused of violating the new law could face felony charges. The ban takes effect immediately under an emergency clause and leaves certain exemptions for minors currently receiving treatment.

The Republican governor’s approval of the measure makes Oklahoma the latest state seeking to restrict access to health care services for transgender youth.

“Last year, I called for a statewide ban on all irreversible gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies on minors so I am thrilled to sign this into law today and protect our kids,” the Republican governor said in a news release Monday. “We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s happening across our nation, and as governor I am proud to stand up for what’s right and ban life-altering transition surgeries on children in the state of Oklahoma.”

Transgender youths’ access to gender-affirming care – medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person align emotional and biological attributes to match the gender by which they want to be known rather than the one they were designated at birth – has become a flashpoint in red states across the country.

Though the care is highly individualized, some children and parents may decide to use reversible puberty suppression therapy. This part of the process may also include hormone therapy that can lead to gender-affirming physical change. Surgical interventions, however, are not typically done on children and many health care providers do not offer them to minors.

Some Republicans have expressed concern over long-term outcomes of the treatments. But major medical associations say that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria – a psychological distress that may result when a person’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not align, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma previously vowed to “defend the rights of transgender youth in court” should the ban be signed into law.

“In a perilous game of chicken with their governor, Oklahoma lawmakers pushed through SB613, a dangerous bill that will jeopardize the health and lives of transgender youth, notwithstanding the overwhelming body of scientific and medical evidence supporting this care as safe, effective, appropriate and necessary,” the organizations said in a joint statement last week.

“Transgender youth in Oklahoma deserve the support and care necessary to give them the same chance to thrive as their peers. Gender-affirming care is a critical part of helping transgender adolescents succeed, establish healthy relationships with their friends and family, live authentically as themselves, and dream about their futures,” they continued.