Trans teen, others oppose Arkansas’ ‘deadly’ ban on gender-affirming care

A transgender teen, parents and doctors testified this week as they challenged an Arkansas law that restricts gender-affirming health care for minors.

The Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in March 2021, prohibits people under the age of 18 from receiving puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and other forms of health care in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in May last year on behalf of four transgender minors, their parents and two doctors who provide gender-affirming care, claiming the law violates the US Constitution.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) criticized the legislation as “gross government overreach” when he vetoed it in April last year. The General Assembly overrode the veto the following day, but a federal judge temporarily blocked the law in July 2021, pending the outcome of the ACLU lawsuit. That court order was upheld in August 2022.

From Monday to Wednesday, doctors and families testified against the SAFE Act. The full trial, the country’s first over the gender-affirming care ban, is expected to last two weeks.

Dylan Brandt, 17, was the only transgender person to testify. Since he started hormone therapy in August 2020, he said, he has become much happier and more confident.

“My exterior finally matches the way I feel inside,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I have my days, but for the most part this has changed my life for the better. I can look in the mirror and be fine with the way I look and it feels great.”

Aaron Jennen provided emotional comments about his 17-year-old daughter, saying it is “not an option” for her to come off hormone therapy that began in January 2021, local radio station KUAR reported.

“I’m worried that I’m going to go back to being the person I was before I started, an unhappy person,” Jennen said, according to the NPR affiliate. Before treatment, the girl questioned the meaning of life, she added.

Dr. Michele Hutchison, who treated three teenage plaintiffs in the lawsuit, testified that she typically sees patients for at least 10 months before recommending treatment, according to NBC News and network affiliate KARK-TV.

Hutchison said that after the SAFE Act was passed at Arkansas House, four of his patients attempted suicide.

Last week, an ACLU of Arkansas official argued that Arkansas families “depend on this life-saving health care,” calling the state’s attempted ban “baseless and deadly.”

“The risks of denying this care to youth in need are serious and well-founded, while the law that attempts to ban the care has made Arkansas less safe and less welcoming to transgender youth, their families, and all those who care for them. love,” he wrote. Executive Director Holly Dickson in a press release.

Arkansas was the first state to enact a ban on gender-affirming care. Measures restricting such care to minors have been passed in three others: Alabama, Arizona and Tennessee. A judge partially blocked Alabama’s law earlier this year, while Arizona’s won’t take effect until May.

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