Arkansas ban on trans healthcare violates US constitution, judge rules

An Arkansas queer young person, wearing a suit and bow tie, leans over with their hands pointing inward.

A US federal judge has struck down a ban on gender-affirming care for trans-under-18s in Arkansas after deeming it unconstitutional.

US district judge Jay Moody Issued an indefinite injunction against the Republican-led House Bill 1570 (HB1570) on Tuesday (20 June) after deeming it in violation of the equal protection rights of trans youth.

Similar to several other bills proposed across US legislatures, the bill would have banned gender-affirming care for under-18s, including physically reversible puberty blockers.

It would have imposed sanctions on medical organisations and professionals that prescribed the treatment to under-18s.

The bill also banned gender-affirming surgeries, which have never been performed by private or public medical associations for under-15s.

“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence shows that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the state undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” Moody wrote in his ruling.

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The federal judge temporarily blocked HB1570 in 2021 after finding that the ban would have caused “irreparable harm” to those who seek care.

His latest ruling on the Arkansas bill remarked that similar injunctions had been made in Alabama and Indiana.

He also cited testimony from gender dysphoria psychiatrist Dr Dan Karasic, who said that gender-affirming care is not just vital, it’s life-saving.

“Delaying gender-affirming medical care when indicated puts patients at risk of worsening anxiety, depression, hospitalisation and suicidality,” Karasic said.

“Not all adolescents with gender dysphoria will live to age 18 if they are unable to get gender-affirming medical treatment.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the legal action in Arkansas that resulted in the injunction, applauded the ruling opinion.

‘Trans futures threatened by laws like this one’

ACLU executive director, Holly Dickson, said: “This decision sends a clear message. Fear-mongering and misinformation about this health care do not hold up to scrutiny; it hurts trans youth and must end.

“Science, medicine, and law are clear: gender-affirming care is necessary to ensure these young Arkansans can thrive and be healthy.”

17-year-old trans boy Dylan Brandt, who was represented by the ACLU during trial, also commended the decision.

He said that he was grateful that the judge had listened to his experiences and made a decision based on how gender-affirming healthcare had changed his and so many others’ lives.

“My mom and I wanted to fight this law not just to protect my health care, but also to ensure that transgender people like me can safely and fully live our truths,” he continued.

“Transgender kids across the country are having their own futures threatened by laws like this one, and it’s up to all of us to speak out, fight back, and give them hope.”

The ACLU is currently tracking at least 130 bills that attempt to mitigate LGBTQ+ healthcare in some fashion.

In total, it has found 491 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, many of which are currently advancing through state legislation and could have profoundly negative effects on the community.

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