Arkansas sued for banning trans youth from getting health care

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

The state of Arkansas is being sued over their new law that bans doctors from providing gender-affirming health care treatments for trans youth.

The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas yesterday on behalf of four transgender young people and their families and two doctors, alleging that H.B. 1570 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against transgender people.

Related: At least four teens have attempted suicide after Arkansas bans trans youth from getting healthcare

“This is who I am, and it’s frustrating to know that a place I’ve lived all my life is treating me like they don’t want me here,” said Dylan Brandt in a statement. He’s 15 and he and his mother Joanna are plaintiffs in Brandt v. Rutledge.

“Having access to care means I’m able to be myself, and be healthier and more confident — physically and mentally. The thought of having that wrenched away and going back to how I was before is devastating.”

H.B. 1570, the so-called “Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” bans doctors for providing gender-affirming care for transgender youth, including puberty blockers, which are not effective if taken as an adult because puberty has already permanently changed a person’s body at that point.

The ACLU says that this violates the Equal Protection Clause since H.B. 1570 says that these procedures are only illegal if given to a transgender person but can be prescribed for cisgender youth for other conditions. They also say that it violates the Constitution’s Due Process Clause because it violates parents’ rights, and they say it violates the First Amendment because the law bans doctors from referring patients for “medical treatments that are in accordance with the accepted medical standards of care to treat gender dysphoria.”

The bill was passed by the state legislature in March but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed it, saying that “government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained.”

“This is an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society,” he said.

The Republican-controlled state legislature almost immediately overrode his veto, making Arkansas the first state to ban transgender youth from getting life-saving health care.

“This law would be devastating to trans youth and their families, forcing many to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need,” said ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson. “We’re suing to stop this cruel and unconstitutional law from taking effect and inflicting further harm on these children and their families.”

An AP report last month found several teens in the state were having suicidal thoughts after the bill passed. Some families said that they were considering leaving the state while one doctor who treats transgender youth said that she worried that her patients would turn to the illegal prescription drug market to continue hormone treatments.

“They’re going to find a way to get them, and it’s going to be dangerous because they won’t be monitored for side effects,” said Dr. Michele Hutchison.

She is also one of the plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit.

“Since this law passed we’ve been inundated with calls from panic-stricken parents who are terrified about what it will mean for their children. That’s why I’m fighting back.”

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