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ACLU lawsuit challenges Arkansas trans youth treatment ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge Tuesday to strike down a new Arkansas law that made the state the first to ban gender confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the new prohibition, which is set to take effect on July 28. It prohibits doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender confirming treatments. The lawsuit argues the prohibition will severely harm transgender youth in the state and violate their constitutional rights.

“If the health care ban goes into effect, it will have devastating consequences for transgender youth in Arkansas,” the lawsuit said. “These young people will be unable to obtain medical care that their doctors and parents agree they need — and those already receiving care will have their treatment abruptly halted — which could have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.”

Republican lawmakers enacted the ban in April, overriding a veto by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The governor vetoed the ban following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide.

Hutchinson said the law went too far, especially since it wouldn’t exempt youth already receiving the care.

Neighboring Tennessee is the only other state to enact a similar ban on gender treatments for youth, though that state’s law is limited to providing gender-confirming hormone treatment to prepubescent minors.

Arkansas’ prohibition has already caused pain and confusion for families in the state whose children are receiving treatments. At least six transgender adolescents in the state attempted suicide in the weeks after the ban was approved, according to the lawsuit.

The ban has also prompted some families to look at moving out of Arkansas to continue care for their children.

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

Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press