Trans Teen, Others Argue Against ‘Deadly’ Arkansas Ban On Gender-Affirming Care

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A transgender teen, parents and doctors testified this week while challenging an Arkansas law that restricts gender-affirming medical care for minors.

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

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

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) had criticized the legislation as “vast 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 result of the ACLU lawsuit. That injunction was upheld in August 2022.

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

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

“My outside finally matches the way I feel on the inside,” he stated, 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 OK with the way I look and it feels pretty great.”

Aaron Jennen provided emotional comments about his 17-year-old daughter, saying it’s “not an option” for her to stop the hormone therapy she began in January 2021, reported local radio station KUAR.

“I worry about her withdrawing back into the person she was before she started it, a person who was unhappy,” Jennen said, according to the NPR affiliate. Prior to treatment, the girl would question the point of life, he added.

Dr. Michele Hutchison, who treated three teen plaintiffs in the suit, stated that she usually sees patients for at least 10 months before recommending a treatment, according to NBC News and network affiliate KARK-TV.

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

Last week, an official at the ACLU of Arkansas 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 young people who need it are grave and well-founded, while the law attempting to ban care has made Arkansas less safe and less welcoming for transgender youth, their families, and all who love them,” 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 for minors have been passed in three others: Alabama, Arizona and Tennessee. A judge partially blocked Alabama’s law earlier this year, while Arizona’s isn’t set to take effect until May.

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