17 GOP states ask federal court for right to deny transgender kids medical care


March 18 2021 protest of Arkansas's trans youth health care ban

March 18 2021 protest of Arkansas’s trans youth health care banPhoto: ACLU

GOP attorneys general for 17 different states told a federal court that they should be allowed to ban transgender youth from receiving life-saving gender-affirming medical care.

“We are concerned about the surge in recent years of children suffering from gender dysphoria and other forms of gender-related psychological distress,” wrote Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a brief, where he goes on to claim that puberty blockers are “experimental” despite FDA approval for use in minors and decades of research showing that they’re effective in helping trans youth.

Related: Puberty blockers reduce suicidal thoughts in trans people. Republicans want to ban them.

The brief was filed in the case of Brandt et al. v. Rutledge et al., the ACLU’s challenge to Arkansas’s law that banned doctors from providing gender-affirming health care for minors. Experts on trans youth health worry that the law could lead to trans youth not getting the medical treatment they need and perhaps seeking it on the black market.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed the bill, saying that “conservative philosophy” says that “restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society,” speaking about how the ban would interfere with doctors providing the best care possible for their patients. The state legislature overrode his veto.

Marshal wrote and attorneys general from 16 other states signed a brief to help Arkansas keep their trans health care ban. Their argument essentially boils down to a claim that they as lawyers know better than doctors who treat trans youth what is the best medical treatment option.

“The evidence also shows that nearly all children whose gender dysphoria is treated with puberty blockers to ‘buy time’ will proceed to take cross-sex hormones and seek other medical interventions with irreversible effects,” the brief states, effectively saying that trans young people will grow up and become trans adults.

Marshall names a list of “lifelong consequences” that are possible when one transitions, like infertility and “social risks from delayed puberty.”

One study found that puberty blockers drastically reduce lifelong suicidal thoughts for transgender people who want them and get them by delaying the permanent changes that come with puberty. Another study found that trans youth reported “feeling happier, feeling more comfortable, better relationships with family and peers and positive changes in gender role” because of puberty blockers.

The brief was signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

“This many states have just weighed in to defend banning health care for trans youth. My heart hurts a little,” wrote ACLU attorney Chase Strangio on Twitter.

The ACLU claims in the lawsuit that Arkansas’s law violates trans people’s constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. The Biden administration’s Department of Justice has sided with trans youth in this case.



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