Oct 19, 2022 - News

Federal trial on youth transgender care starts in Little Rock

A gavel at the end of a tunnel in the shape of a red cross

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Two doctors testified Monday in Little Rock's U.S. District Court about the negative impacts of limiting gender-affirming care for transgender people.

What's happening: Their declarations came on the opening day of a federal bench trial in Arkansas' Eastern District Court that aims to decide whether to uphold or permanently block the state's 2021 law that banned the medical care for minors.

Why it matters: Psychiatrist Dan Karasic and pediatric endocrinologist Deanna Adkins backed up findings suggesting the inability to access gender-affirming care has been linked to worse mental health outcomes for transgender youth, including suicidal ideation and substance use, due to gender dysphoria.

The latest: Lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union and the attorney general's office appeared in court prepared for a two-week trial, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. But U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. informed them that only this week had been scheduled.

  • Lawyers with the attorney general's office have witnesses scheduled for next week, and the ACLU expected testimony to continue.
  • Court can run into the evening, Moody told both sides, or can reconvene in December.

State of play: The topic is controversial for both Democrats and Republicans heading into the midterms in less than three weeks. A record number of bills targeting trans youth were introduced across the country in 2021, setting the stage for conflict on the issue.

  • Earlier this month, medical groups asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate threats of violence to hospitals in Tennessee, Boston and Chicago that provide gender-affirming care to youth.

Background: The ACLU challenged Arkansas' law in May 2021, and it's effectively been blocked from taking effect since.

  • Arkansas' attorney general's office is defending the state's position.

What they're saying: "As the court will hear, this sweeping intrusion into the rights of parents to access medically recommended treatment for their adolescent children is fundamentally indefensible under any standard of review," Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project, said in a statement.

What we're watching: Testimony resumed Tuesday morning with the questioning of a child development psychiatrist on international guidelines on chest surgeries for transgender boys.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 — or you can text message or call 988.


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