Personal care treatments

Federal court blocks Arkansas ban on treatment for transgender youth

Arkansas State Capitol – Photo: HAL333, via wikimedia

A federal court has blocked an Arkansas law that sought to prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health treatments and to penalize doctors who prescribe such interventions.

On Thursday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s injunction blocking the state from enforcing the law after four transgender youths, their parents and two doctors filed a lawsuit, arguing that the ban violates the rights of transgender youth to freedom of expression (including self-identification) and equal protection under the law, infringes on their parents’ right to decide on the type of care they receive and violates the right to freedom of expression of doctors by preventing them from recommending the treatments that are best for their patients.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal concluded that “[b]e because the minor’s sex at birth determines whether or not the minor can receive certain types of medical care under the law,” the ban discriminates on the basis of sex. As such, the law will continue to be stalled while the case is decided on the merits.

The lower court judge who issued the injunction last year, U.S. District Judge James Moody, Jr. of the Eastern District of Arkansas, is due to hear oral argument Oct. 17 on whether the law must be permanently blocked, reports Policy.

The law, passed largely by party votes in the Republican-led State House and Senate, was initially opposed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year over concerns that the law – which also allows insurers illness to deny coverage for any transitional care, even for adults, was too broad, infringing on parental rights, and did not exempt young people who were already receiving care, further disrupting their treatments. But Republicans overruled Hutchinson’s veto, prompting the plaintiffs to sue. Seven days before the law was scheduled to take effect, Moody’s issued his injunction preventing the law from being enacted.

Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association, oppose the ban and have argued that transition-related treatments can be administered safely. LGBTQ advocates and civil rights advocates noted that in addition to being potentially unconstitutional, the law would harm transgender youth, potentially exacerbating their gender dysphoria and leading to depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

But Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, arguing on behalf of the state and the state medical board, argued that the state has the power to regulate medical practices, especially those that could be potentially harmful. Rutledge also argued that restricting transgender health care is necessary to prevent transgender youth from making hasty or uninformed decisions about their health that they may later regret if they choose to undergo hormone therapy or surgery.” irreversible”.

LGBTQ advocates celebrated the 8th Circuit’s ruling, hailing it as a victory not just for plaintiffs, but for all transgender youth.

“Today, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that no child should be denied the medical care they need,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, in a statement. “We are relieved for young trans people. Research shows that denying gender-affirming care to transgender youth contributes to depression, isolation, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. Transgender people deserve the right to live a healthy life without fear or discrimination. It’s time for the Arkansas legislature to protect trans kids, not target them.



“This is a critical victory for Arkansas’ transgender teens, their families, and their care providers,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, in a statement. “The 8th Circuit has been very clear that the state’s ban on care does not advance any significant government interest and that the state’s defense of the law lacks legal or evidentiary support. The State does not have to categorically stigmatize this concern for prohibition. We know teens thrive on this care, support and love, and we are determined to keep fighting until this baseless law is overturned for good.

Similar laws aimed at restricting young people’s access to gender-affirming care have been passed in Tennessee and Alabama, although the Movement Advancement Project, a pro-LGBTQ think tank, noted that specific wording in the Tennessee law — which prohibits hormone therapy for “prepubescent minors” — is based on a misunderstanding of transgender health care and may allow minors who have already entered puberty (as generally recommended standards of care) to begin receiving hormone therapy. The Alabama law has since been blocked from being enforced by a federal judge.

The state of Arizona passed a similar law that only restricts surgery for transgender youth, but does not ban hormones or puberty blockers. Meanwhile, the state of Texas has encouraged state agencies to investigate families with transgender youth for “child abuse” if their children have access to gender-affirming care. While the courts allowed investigations to resume generally, two separate injunctions were issued preventing state agencies from prosecuting specific families who claimed to be targeted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.