News (USA)

Federal judge rejects motion to block DeSantis trans healthcare restrictions

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A federal judge in Florida has denied a motion to block portions of Florida’s Senate Bill 254, which was written to deny both trans minors and adults in the state access to gender-affirming care.

The ruling means that trans adults in Florida may only seek gender-affirming care from physicians and not certified nurse practitioners, who make up the majority of healthcare professionals providing gender-affirming care in the state.

District Court Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in an order filed Monday that the law does “not prohibit adults from obtaining treatments of the kind the plaintiffs seek.”

The decision was a response to a motion seeking an emergency block on the law’s restrictions filed by four transgender adults who joined an ongoing suit against Senate Bill 254 in July, arguing their pursuit of medical care in Florida was unlawfully disrupted by the new law.

According to the complaint, two of the adult plaintiffs have been unable to obtain hormone replacement therapy from nurse practitioners they formerly relied on, while two others say their scheduled gender-affirming surgeries were canceled because their surgeons feared legal repercussions stemming from the poorly written bill.

Hinkle wrote adult plaintiffs denied care by certain providers “may be able to obtain the treatment from others” and that a surgeon’s unwillingness to perform a procedure is not related “to anything a preliminary injunction would cure.”

A trial scheduled for November will determine if Senate Bill 254 is constitutional.

“In short,” Hinkle ruled, “the adult plaintiffs have not shown they will suffer irreparable harm, between now and the date of a final judgment, caused by any part of the statute or rules as to which the plaintiffs’ challenge is likely to succeed on the merits.”

The judge also acknowledged the impact of an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in August which allowed Alabama’s felony ban on gender-affirming health care to take effect. Hinkle stated the adult plaintiffs’ likelihood of success is now “significantly lower.”

The Alabama law, which had been blocked by a preliminary injunction for more than a year, makes the prescription of puberty blockers or hormones to trans individuals younger than 19 a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“The use of these medications in general — let alone for children — almost certainly is not ‘deeply rooted’ in our nation’s history and tradition,” the three-judge panel ruled, citing the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

In June, Hinkle blocked restrictions on portions of Senate Bill 254 banning gender-affirming health care for trans minors, ruling the law prohibits the administration of care “even when medically appropriate” and there is “no rational basis for a state to categorically ban these treatments.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill in May.

Since 2021, Republican legislatures in 23 states have passed laws that heavily restrict or ban gender-affirming care for trans minors, while Florida and Missouri have imposed limits on health care for transgender adults, as well. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all rejected claims that gender-affirming care is harmful to transgender children or adults.

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