Texas high court reinstates ban on gender-affirming care

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday upheld the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors, which parents said unconstitutionally limited their right to seek care for their children. The 8-1 decision overturned a lower court’s ruling that the legislation violated the Texas Constitution.

The law, passed last year, prohibits doctors from prescribing puberty-blocking drugs or hormone treatments to minors, and bars them from performing surgeries that alter patients’ physical characteristics to better match their gender identity. Under the legislation, children who began receiving such treatments before the bill was signed will eventually have to stop taking them, and medical professionals who violate the ban will lose their licenses.

“We conclude that the Legislature made a rational and permissible policy choice to limit the types of medical procedures available to children,” Justice Rebeca Huddle wrote for the majority of the all-Republican court.

Texas is one of about two dozen states that have passed bans as conservatives have pushed to broadly restrict transgender rights, an issue that has emerged as a flashpoint in the country’s cultural and political divisions. Former President Donald Trump, who is seeking a second term, has also pledged to end gender-affirming care for minors, NBC News reported in January. He has likened the procedures, which medical groups say are safe and sometimes medically necessary, to “child abuse.”

The state, with a population of about 30 million, is the largest to have banned gender-affirming care. Republicans have also pushed to restrict teaching about LGBTQ+ people and issues in schools, part of an effort to expand parental rights.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) said on X that his office would “use every tool at our disposal to ensure that doctors and medical institutions follow the law.”

The measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Tom Oliverson (R), added that the state has a “duty” to regulate medical care.

“Very gratifying to see @SupremeCourt_TX agree,” he wrote on X.

LGBTQ+ advocates criticized the move, saying it would restrict parents’ rights and harm transgender children in a conservative state that has expanded parental control over issues such as their children’s schooling.

“Instead of leaving medical decisions about minor children up to them, their parents and their doctors, the Court has chosen to let politicians … determine what treatment is allowed,” said Karen Loewy, spokesperson for word of Lambda Legal, which was among the groups that filed the lawsuit on behalf of five Texas families.

Debra Lehrmann, the dissenting judge in Friday’s ruling, agreed with Loewy, calling the law “not only cruel” but also unconstitutional. She added that this allows the state to “legislatively remove basic parental rights.”

“The Court’s approach that parental rights are mine but not yours is not based on any objective criteria and leaves parents completely clueless as to whether their parental freedom will be meaningfully protected,” Lehrmann wrote. “The Court’s view thus jeopardizes all parental rights.”

They countered that even though “capable parents” have a majority to make decisions about their children without state interference, laws are allowed to enact limits on child labor and regulate medical care.

Ash Hall, ACLU of Texas strategist for LGBTQIA+ rights, said the law has caused pain for teens and families since it was passed in June 2023.

“Our government should not be denying trans youth the health care they need to survive and thrive — while providing the exact same health care to everyone else,” Hall said in a statement. “Texas politicians’ obsession with attacking trans kids and their families is needlessly cruel.”

Although the plaintiffs said the court’s decision leaves no room for further challenge, they will continue to challenge measures like this.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review a Tennessee law banning gender transition care for minors, the first opportunity the nation’s highest court will have to review the constitutionality of such restrictions.

The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking more than 500 bills it calls “anti-LGBTQ” across the country.

Anti-transgender legislation has typically focused on issues where trans people have less popular support, such as access to health care and bathrooms, said Jami Taylor, a political science professor at the University of Toledo whose research focuses on transgender politics and policy.

“This is part of a larger pattern of attacks on transgender rights … and some of them are designed where there is less public support,” Taylor said. “There is also an attempt in some places to simply regulate the existence of transgender people, and denial of care is part of that. »

A majority of Americans oppose puberty-blocking drugs and hormone treatments for trans children, according to a Washington Post-KFF poll. However, for people of diverse genders, the ability to access such treatments is improving. their overall well-being, according to the American Psychological Association.

Major medical associations have said treatments such as puberty blockers reduce rates of depression and suicide among transgender people and have opposed the legislation, saying laws should not discriminate against trans patients or interfere with doctors’ ability to provide individualized, evidence-based care to patients.

More than 100,000 transgender youth live in states that ban gender-affirming care, according to the Williams Institute, a research center that reports on the demographics of the LGBT community. It is estimated that nearly 30,000 Texans between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender.

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