A person holds up a sign during on October 22, 2022, near the Tennessee capitol where thousands of protestors gathered in competing rallies for against gender-affirming care in the state.
CNN  — 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed on Thursday its existing policy supporting gender-affirming care for transgender youth, but the group also plans to conduct an additional review of research.

The review is intended to “develop an expanded set of documents to support pediatricians across the country,” with their management of transgender patients, Mark Del Monte, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics said in an emailed statement to CNN. The review was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The existing policy, issued in 2018, was the academy’s first statement on care for transgender youth, and it supported access to “comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.” Academy bylaws require policy statements to be reviewed every five years, Del Monte said, which triggered the action.

During a meeting at its Illinois headquarters on Thursday afternoon, the AAP Board of Directors approved a plan that reaffirms its existing policy guidance around gender-affirming care. That go-ahead was based on an updated review of scientific evidence released since the policy was approved in 2018; the board agreed the latest evidence still supports the existing policy.

The additional evidence review — which will be conducted by outside experts — will help to create two additional documents, a clinical report and a technical report “ensuring clinicians have the best possible evidence available to them as they implement AAP’s policy guidance,” Del Monte said in a statement to CNN.

The scope and timeline of the development of the new documents hasn’t been determined yet, according to Del Monte.

Gender-affirming care refers to a range of services to treat gender dysphoria, or the distress that results when someone identifies that their gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. It can include mental health care, social services, and medical care that may involve the use of hormone treatments to block or delay the physical changes of puberty, which can increase feelings of despair and suicidality in transgender kids.

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Such care is now banned in 21 states for children younger than age 18, according to the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign, and restrictions are under consideration in several others. Attacks on transgender rights have become a divisive social issue and mainstay of debate in presidential campaigns ahead of next year’s elections.

Critics have argued the treatments have not been studied enough to understand long-term effects. Several European countries have recently adopted more cautious approaches to gender-affirming care, restricting the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and transition-related surgeries.

Major medical associations — including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry — agree that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate and can be life-saving treatment for children and adults.

CNN’s Jamie Gumbrecht and Jen Christensen contributed to this story.