People gather in support of transgender youth during a rally at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in Salt Lake City.
Washington CNN  — 

A flurry of bills seeking to restrict access to gender-affirming care for trans youth have been introduced by Republican state lawmakers this year, with debates around the issue reaching new heights thanks to proposals that would dramatically expand the scope of bans on such care.

More than 80 bills seeking to restrict access to gender-affirming care have been introduced around the country through February 9, according to data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union and shared with CNN.

Gender-affirming care is medically necessary, evidence-based care that uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender – the one the person was designated at birth – to their affirmed gender – the gender by which one wants to be known.

Though many of the bills introduced so far this year target trans youth and their access to gender-affirming care, at least four states saw bills introduced this session that would restrict such care for individuals over the age of 18, including at least two states where proposed bans covered people under the age of 26.

Legislation aimed at trans adults has alarmed LGBTQ advocates, who worry that even if those measures don’t become law, they will make future bills exclusively targeting minors seem like sensible compromises.

The slew of new bills underscores the shifting policy goals of some conservatives seeking to politicize the lives of transgender Americans by imposing restrictions on a small and vulnerable group that, LGBTQ advocates say, are largely misunderstood, making their existence ripe for attacks. A number of GOP-led states have in recent years been successful in banning trans youth from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity, but now it appears the focus has largely turned to gender-affirming care.