LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – The nation’s first trial over the state’s ban on gender-affirming child care begins this week in Arkansas, the latest battle over 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 starting Monday on a law he temporarily blocked last year that would have barred doctors from giving sex-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to people under 18. It also prevents doctors from referring patients elsewhere for such care.
The families of four transgender youth and two doctors who provide gender-affirming care are asking Moody to repeal the law, saying it is unconstitutional because it discriminates against transgender youth, infringes on parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children and infringes on doctors’ free speech rights. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
“As a parent, I never imagined that I would have to fight for my daughter to get the medically necessary health care that her doctor says she needs, and we know she needs,” said Lacey Jennen, whose 17-year-old daughter has prima facie care gender
Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban on gender-affirming care, and Republican lawmakers overrode GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the bill in 2021. Hutchinson, who signed other restrictions on transgender youth into law, said the ban went too far by eliminating care for those currently receiving it.
Multiple medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the ban, and experts say the treatments are safe if used properly.
But proponents of the law argue that the ban falls within the state’s jurisdiction to regulate medical practices.
“This is about protecting children,” said Republican Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Nothing in this law prohibits someone after age 18 from making this decision. What we’re doing in Arkansas is protecting children from permanent, life-changing 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-affirming care for minors as child abuse. Children’s hospitals across the country have faced harassment and threats of violence for providing gender-affirming care.
“This latest wave of anti-trans fever that is now spreading to other states started in Arkansas and should end in Arkansas,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the family. .
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in August upheld Moody’s preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban. But the state asked the full 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case.