Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Judge Partly Blocks Georgia’s Ban on Transition Care for Minors

The News

A federal judge in Georgia has temporarily blocked part of a state law that prohibits hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors. The preliminary injunction was issued by Judge Sarah E. Geraghty of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Georgia on Sunday, more than a month after the ban took effect.

Judge Geraghty, who was appointed by President Biden, said in her ruling that the ban “is substantially likely to violate the Equal Protection Clause.”

Why It Matters: The law would force people on puberty blockers to make a tough choice

The Georgia law, Senate Bill 140, prohibits doctors in the state from providing gender transition surgery and hormone therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria in people under the age of 18.

The law does allow minors who were already receiving hormone therapy to continue their treatment, and it allows doctors to prescribe puberty blocking medications to minors.

On June 29, the families of four transgender children filed an emergency request asking the federal court in Georgia to block the law from taking effect.

The plaintiffs said the ban violated the rights of parents to make medical decisions regarding their children; they also said it violated the “guarantees of equal protection by denying transgender youth essential, and often lifesaving, medical treatment based on their sex and on their transgender status.”

In the filing, the plaintiffs also stated that while puberty blockers were not being banned under the law, it is not medically recommended that minors stay on puberty blockers for an extended period of time before transitioning to hormone therapy, which the law bans doctors from giving them until the patient turns 18. Puberty blockers don’t cause permanent physical changes but rather temporarily put off puberty. If someone decides to continue transitioning, they will probably consider hormone therapy and gender transition surgery.

“Medical providers generally aim to limit the number of years of treatment with puberty blockers due to the risk of lower bone mineral density and vitamin D deficiency,” the plaintiffs wrote, adding that the ban on hormone therapy will force young people to make a choice between the potential “negative consequences of prolonged puberty-blocking therapy,” or stopping the medication and going through puberty.

On Sunday the judge granted a preliminary injunction for the ban on hormone therapy for minors, allowing minors to continue receiving this treatment while litigation continues. The injunction does not affect the ban on gender transition surgery for minors, which remains in force.

Background: Bans are being challenged across the country

The Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature passed the bill in March. It was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, who said that the law protects “the health and well-being of Georgia’s children.”

The measure is part of a national wave of laws restricting medical care for transgender minors that have been passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in the last few years. At least 19 states this year have passed bans or restrictions on transition care for young people.

In more than half of the states that have passed such bans, court challenges have been filed. In June, a judge in Indiana largely blocked a state ban on transition medical care for minors from taking effect while a lawsuit opposing the ban progresses. And a federal judge in Arkansas overturned the nation’s first law banning transition care.

On the other hand, laws restricting gender transition care were allowed go into effect in Tennessee and Kentucky last month, after federal judges in each state had initially blocked them.

What’s Next

The legal challenge to the Georgia law will move forward. During the litigation, transgender young people in the state will still be able to receive hormone therapy, but not gender transition surgery.

“It is vital that, as a family, we have agency in our own medical decisions that are in the best interest of our child — that includes gender-affirming care,” said Anna Zoe, one of the plaintiffs, in a news release after the emergency request was filed.

Anna Betts is a reporter for the National desk and a member of the 2023-2024 New York Times Fellowship class. More about Anna Betts

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