Federal judge hearing arguments over Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Jun 14, 2023, 8:50 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge is scheduled Wednesday to hear arguments in a lawsuit seeking to block an Indiana law banning doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries to minors.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has asked the judge in Indianapolis for a preliminary injunction that would stop the law from taking effect July 1. The group filed its lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and an Indiana doctor who provides transgender medical treatment just hours after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the bill April 5.

The organization argues the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, federal laws regarding essential medical services and wrongly prohibits Indiana doctors from communicating with out-of-state doctors about gender-affirming care for their patients younger than 18.

Indiana’s ban was enacted amid a national push by Republican-led legislatures continue to curb LGBTQ+ rights. At least 20 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning Missouri’s governor signed that state’s bill into law last week.

Indiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature approved the ban this spring after contentious hearings that primarily featured testimony from vocal opponents, with many arguing the gender-affirming care lessened the risk of depression and suicide among transgender youth. Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Joanna King of Middlebury said the ban would “protect our children from irreversible, harmful, life-altering procedures.”

The ACLU countered in court filings that the Indiana ban “is extraordinary in its overreach.”

“The care that it bans is not untested or experimental treatment. It is the consensus medical treatment endorsed by major medical professional associations across the globe,” the group said. “Yet, Indiana presumes to intrude into the relationship between parents, their children, and their physicians to absolutely prohibit this essential treatment.”

Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita, whose office is defending the law, has praised the ban against what he calls “irreversible and damaging decisions.”

“Banning these experimental procedures is critical for the health and wellbeing of future generations,” Rokita said.

Lawsuits have been filed in several states against transgender treatment bans. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and Oklahoma has agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it.

The Indiana law would immediately ban gender-affirming surgeries while trans youth currently taking medication to transition would have until the end of the year to stop doing so. Doctors who violate the ban could be disciplined by the state medical licensing board.

The case is being heard by U.S. District Court Judge James Patrick Hanlon, a former President Donald Trump appointee, who in 2021 issued an order blocking an Indiana law that would have required doctors to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions about a disputed treatment for potentially stopping the abortion process.

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Federal judge hearing arguments over Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for minors