Judge blocks Texas ban on transitional care for transgender minors

COLUMBIA, Missouri — A Texas judge on Friday blocked the state’s upcoming ban on transitional medical care for minors, as a Missouri judge ruled that a similar ban could go into effect in that state on Monday, the latest in a lawsuit over efforts by conservatives to restrict this care across the country.

In Texas, a group of families and doctors have sued to block the state law, saying it violates parents’ rights and has devastating consequences for transgender children and youth who refuse treatment recommended by their doctors and parents would.

The verdict came just before the ban began on September 1. The Texas Attorney General’s Office was expected to appeal quickly to allow the law to go into effect.

St. Louis County Judge Steven Ohmer’s ruling in Missouri means healthcare providers will be barred from performing transitional surgeries on minors starting next week. Transgender youth who started taking puberty blockers or hormones before Monday can continue to take those drugs, but other minors won’t have access to those drugs.

Some adults will also lose access to gender-responsive care. Medicaid will no longer cover adult treatments, and the state will no longer offer these surgeries to incarcerated individuals.

Doctors who break the law face disqualification and patient lawsuits. The law makes it easier for ex-patients to sue by giving them 15 years to go to court and promising at least $500,000 in compensation if they succeed.

The Missouri ACLU, Lambda Legal and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner last month sued to repeal the Missouri statute on behalf of doctors, LGBTQ+ organizations and three families of transgender children on the grounds that it is discriminatory. They demanded that the law be temporarily blocked once the court challenge has taken place. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for September 22.

However, Ohmer wrote that the plaintiffs’ arguments “were unconvincing and unlikely to succeed.”

“The scientific and medical evidence is conflicting and unclear. Accordingly, the evidence raises more questions than answers,” Ohmer wrote in his verdict. “As a result, it has not been possible to demonstrate conclusively that the matter has a sufficient chance of success to justify issuing an injunction.”

One plaintiff, a 10-year-old transgender boy, has not yet started puberty and has therefore not yet started taking puberty blockers. His family fears he will hit puberty once the law comes into force, meaning he will not be a grandfather and will not have access to puberty blockers for the next four years until the law expires.

The law expires in August 2027.

Proponents of the law argued that gender-sensitive medical treatments were unsafe and untested.

Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey’s office wrote in a court letter that blocking the bill “would open the door to interventions that a growing international consensus says could be extraordinarily damaging.”

The office pointed to restrictions on gender-affirming treatments for minors in countries such as: England And Norwayalthough these countries have not enacted outright bans.

An Associated Press email seeking comment from the attorney general’s office was not immediately returned on Friday.

Every major medical organization in the United States, including the American Medical Association, has opposed bans on gender-specific underage care and has supported juvenile medical care when properly administered. Lawsuits have been filed in several states that have enacted bans this year.

“We will work with patients to get the care they need in Missouri or in Illinois where gender-based care is protected by state law,” said Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in the St. Louis area and im Southwest Missouri said in a statement after the verdict.

The Food and Drug Administration approved puberty blockers 30 years ago to treat children with precocious puberty — a condition that causes sexual development to begin much earlier than usual. Sex hormones — synthetic forms of estrogen and testosterone — were approved decades ago for the treatment of hormonal imbalances and contraception.

The FDA has not specifically approved the drugs to treat trans youth. For this purpose, however, they have been used “off label” for many years, a common and accepted practice in many diseases. The drugs are also used to treat early puberty and other health conditions in children. Doctors who treat trans patients say this decades-long use is proof the treatments aren’t experimental.

Brian Ashcraft

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