POLITICS

ACLU Sues Arkansas Over Anti-Trans Law Limiting Health Care For Youth

The suit is the first major challenge to laws targeting trans young people being pushed in Republican-led state legislatures nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Arkansas on Tuesday over its new law that bars transgender kids from receiving essential medical care, saying the measure will cause “catastrophic harm” to one of the nation’s most vulnerable groups.

The civil rights organization filed the lawsuit on behalf of four families and two doctors with transgender patients, asking a federal judge to strike down the law. It’s the first major challenge to state laws enacted in a broader nationwide effort by Republicans to target trans youth.

“Transgender children in crisis shouldn’t have to turn to the courts to ensure that they can get the health care that their doctors and parents agree they need,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, wrote Tuesday. “But that’s the reality that anti-LGBTQ forces have created as part of their campaign of attacks on transgender youth.”

The Arkansas legislature passed HB 1570, in March. It prohibits doctors from providing medically necessary treatment to transgender youth. It also makes it illegal for doctors to provide minors with treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies or any transition procedures, and those who flout the law could lose their licenses. Further, it allows private insurance companies to refuse coverage for gender-affirming treatment for residents of any age.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), vetoed the bill in April, saying Arkansas should not serve as “the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health care experts.”

But the Republican-led House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override his veto shortly afterward. The law takes effect on July 28.

The effort is part of a broader political attack by Republican legislatures nationwide against transgender youth. More than 30 states are considering or have attempted to push through laws targeting trans kids, either to limit their access to health care or bar them from competing on school sports teams, according to a tally by the ACLU.

The measures lean heavily on conservative dog whistles about transgender people, relying on misinformation and negative tropes as a means to pass discriminatory legislation. President Joe Biden has moved to undo many of his predecessor’s efforts to restrict transgender people from engaging in everyday life, but religious conservative groups have worked with local politicians en masse to pass bills at the state level.

Studies have shown access to medical care is an essential need for trans youth. The nation’s leading pediatrics groups have lambasted anti-trans bills as harmful to children.

“As a parent, it’s been incredibly distressing because my thoughts are constantly on, what am I going to do for my son if this … takes effect and he can no longer receive the gender-affirming care that has made him the happy, confident, thriving kid that he’s been?” Joanna Brandt, a plaintiff in the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Dylan, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.