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ACLU wastes no time suing over Indiana ban on transgender health care for minors

The ban, signed into law Wednesday, is set to take effect on July 1 and would prevent minors from accessing most hormone treatments, puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries.

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging a ban on almost all forms of gender-affirming care for minors in Indiana immediately after it was signed into law.

Republican Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 480 into law on Wednesday, after telling reporters on Tuesday that the issue was complicated and “clear as mud.”

SB 480 bans most forms of gender-affirming care for minors including hormone treatments, puberty blockers and surgeries. Physicians who violate these rules either by providing banned treatments or by aiding another physician will be subject to discipline by the medical oversight board.

“Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor," Holcomb said in a statement. "There has and will continue to be debate within the medical community about the best ways to provide physical and mental health care for adolescents who are struggling with their own gender identity, and it is important that we recognize and understand those struggles are real. With all of that in mind, I have decided to sign SB 480 into law."

The speculation surrounding Holcomb’s decision to veto or sign the law stemmed from his veto of a previous law that banned transgender girls from participating in K-12 girls’ sports teams. Indiana lawmakers eventually voted to override that veto, which allowed the law known as HEA 1041 to go into effect.

Almost immediately after Holcomb announced that he had signed SB 480, the ACLU filed its complaint in Indianapolis federal court challenging the law.

“This law would be devastating to trans youth and their families, causing them serious injuries and forcing those who can, to uproot their lives and leave the state to access the gender-affirming care they need,” said Ken Falk, legal director for the ACLU of Indiana. 

The lawsuit claims that SB 480 violates the constitutional rights and bodily integrity of minor patients who seek gender-affirming care.

“By denying this medically necessary treatment to minors, the state of Indiana has displaced the judgment of parents, doctors, and adolescents with that of the government," the complaint states. "In so doing, the state has intruded on the fundamental rights of parents to care for their minor children by consenting to their receipt of doctor-recommended and necessary care and treatment. This violates due process."

Robust data on gender-affirming care can be difficult to obtain, but a Reuters analysis of roughly 330 million patients and their insurance claims from 2017 to 2021 provides a glimpse into how many patients nationally receive the treatments that SB 480 bans.

In 2021, the researchers found, 1,390 patients ages 6-17 who had a prior diagnosis of gender dysphoria were prescribed puberty blockers, while 4,231 were provided with hormone therapy and 282 patients underwent a mastectomy.

The data is limited to only counting treatments provided in conjunction with insurance and does not include treatments that may have been paid for out-of-pocket.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the types of treatments banned by the new law, and its official policy statement supports the use of a gender-affirming care model for transgender and gender-diverse children and adolescents.   

Following Holcomb’s signing, Indiana's Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita released a statement in support of the law.

“Signing the bill that protects our children from irreversible and damaging decisions was the right move by the governor. Banning these experimental procedures is critical for the health and wellbeing of future generations. My office is thankful for the General Assembly’s hard work to ensure this got across the finish line. We are ready to defend it in court,” Rokita said.

Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Health, Law, Regional

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