Families and doctors sue Texas over its new ban on transgender care for minors

Jul 13, 2023, 11:02 AM

FILE - Demonstrators gather on the steps to the Texas Capitol to speak against transgender-related ...

FILE - Demonstrators gather on the steps to the Texas Capitol to speak against transgender-related legislation bills being considered in the Texas Senate and Texas House, May 20, 2021, in Austin, Texas. On Wednesday, July 12, 2023, a group of Texas families and doctors filed suit in federal court seeking to block the state’s new law that bans gender-affirming care for minors, arguing it violates parental rights and discriminates against transgender teens. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A group of Texas families and doctors have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to block the state’s new law that bans gender-affirming care for minors, arguing it violates parental rights and discriminates against transgender teens.

At least 20 states have adopted laws to ban some gender-affirming care for minors. Half of those laws are not in effect, either because they were passed so recently that they haven’t yet kicked in or, in the case of Kentucky, because enforcement has been put on hold by courts.

A judge in June also blocked enforcement of Tennessee’s ban, but an appeals court this month said it can take effect for now, at least.

The Texas lawsuit was filed Wednesday over a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in June and set to take effect Sept. 1.

The lawsuit argues that the ban will have devastating consequences for transgender teens in Texas, who they say will be unable to obtain critical medical treatment recommended by their physicians and parents.

“As a father, my primary goal is to ensure that Luna is safe, taken care of, and has everything she needs to thrive,” one plaintiff, the parent of a transgender 12-year-old girl, said in the lawsuit. “Because of recent political attacks against transgender Texans, and (the law) SB 14 in particular, my ability to be a great dad for my kid has become much more difficult.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Texas law would prevent transgender minors from accessing hormone therapies, puberty blockers and transition surgeries, even thought medical experts says such surgical procedures are rarely performed on children.

Children who already started such care are required to be weaned off in a “medically appropriate” manner.

According to the lawsuit, many transgender teens will “face the whiplash of losing their necessary medical treatment and experiencing unwanted and unbearable changes to their body.”

“I am gravely concerned about my patients’ ability to survive, much less thrive, if SB 14 takes effect,” Richard Ogden Roberts, a doctor who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said on behalf of himself and his patients.

Roberts, who has cared for over 200 gender diverse and transgender young patients and their families, said in the lawsuit he and his colleagues worry they will be forced to choose between upholding their medical oaths or upholding the state’s new law.

As more states have moved to enforce bans, families of transgender youth are increasingly forced to travel out of state for the care they need.

Every major medical organization, including the American Medical Association, has opposed the bans and supported the medical care for youth when administered appropriately. Opponents of gender-affirming care say there’s no solid proof of purported benefits, cite widely discredited research and say children shouldn’t make life-altering decisions they might later regret.

Last year, Abbott became the first governor to order the investigation of families who were receiving care. The investigations were later halted by a Texas judge.

When legislators returned to Austin in January for the state’s biennial legislative session, they created SB 14, which codified a ban on transgender care for minors into law.

The transgender care ban was one of the most divisive issues of this year’s Texas legislative session. Transgender rights activists disrupted the Texas House with protests from the chamber gallery, which led to state police forcing demonstrators to move outside the building.

Children’s hospitals around the country have faced opened investigations into transgender care at an Austin hospital.

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Families and doctors sue Texas over its new ban on transgender care for minors