First trial begins on state ban on care for trans youth in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The nation’s first trial over a state’s ban on gender-confirming care for children begins this week in Arkansas, the latest fight against restrictions on transgender youth championed by Republican leaders and widely condemned by medical experts.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody will hear testimony and evidence beginning Monday on the law he temporarily blocked last year barring doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under the age of 18. It also prevents doctors from referring patients elsewhere for such care.

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The families of four transgender youth and two doctors who provide gender-confirming care want Moody’s to strike down the law, saying it’s unconstitutional because it discriminates against transgender youth, infringes on the rights of parents from making medical decisions for their children and infringes doctors’ right to free speech. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

“As a parent, I never imagined that I would have to fight so that my daughter could receive the medically necessary health care that her doctor says she needs and we know she needs it,” said said Lacey Jennen, whose 17-year-old daughter received gender confirmation care.

Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban on gender-confirmation care, with Republican lawmakers in 2021 overriding GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the legislation. Hutchinson, who had signed other restrictions on young transgender people, said the ban went too far in cutting care for those currently receiving it.

Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the bans and experts say the treatments are safe if administered correctly.

But defenders of the law have argued that the ban is within the power of the state to regulate medical practices.

“This is about protecting children,” said Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Nothing in this law prohibits someone after the age of 18 from making this decision. What we do in Arkansas is protect children from permanent life-altering decisions.

A similar law was blocked by a federal judge in Alabama, and a judge in Texas blocked that state’s efforts to investigate gender-confirming care for minors as child abuse. Children’s hospitals across the country have faced harassment and threats of violence for providing gender-confirmation care.

“This latest wave of anti-trans fever that is now spreading to other states started in Arkansas and must end in Arkansas,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. , who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families.

A three-judge panel of the 8th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in August upheld Moody’s preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban. But the state asked the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case.

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