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Texas Supreme Court to hear challenge to ban on care for transgender kids

By William Melhado, The Texas Tribune
People line the railings of the outdoor rotunda at the Texas Capitol and wave signs during the "Fight for our Lives" rally in opposition of anti-LGBTQ+ bills on March 27. File Photo by Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune
People line the railings of the outdoor rotunda at the Texas Capitol and wave signs during the "Fight for our Lives" rally in opposition of anti-LGBTQ+ bills on March 27. File Photo by Evan L'Roy/The Texas Tribune

Jan. 30 (UPI) --

The Texas Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge Tuesday to a new state law banning doctors from prescribing gender-affirming care for transgender youth, a prohibition that a district court judge said was unconstitutional.

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After Gov. Greg Abbott signed the measure barring transgender Texas youth from accessing puberty blockers and hormone therapies, some of their families filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law from going into effect. They argued the new law violates their parental rights by stopping them from providing medical care for their children and it discriminates against transgender children on the basis of sex.

After a Travis County district court temporarily blocked the law from going into effect, arguing that it infringed on Texas parents' right to make medical decisions about their children, a state appeal to the Texas Supreme Court enabled the law to go into effect in September.

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Republican lawmakers last year passed Senate Bill 14, which restricts doctors and hospitals from administering puberty blockers and hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria -- a dissonance some people feel between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. The law was part of a broader coalition of bills that LGBTQ+ advocates say have targeted their community.

Some Texas Republicans campaigned on prohibiting gender-affirming care under the banner of protecting children, despite protests from the young people who receive these treatments, their parents and medical associations.

National and Texas-based medical groups oppose laws that restrict access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy. Doctors say these treatments are lifesaving for transgender youth who face higher rates of suicide attempts and mental health problems than their cisgender peers.

State district Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel agreed with parents suing the state, writing SB 14 "interferes with Texas families' private decisions and strips Texas parents ... of the right to seek, direct and provide medical care for their children," in her Aug. 25 decision.

The attorney general appealed the district court's order directly to the state's highest court, which superseded Cantú Hexsel's decision and enabled the law to take effect last September.

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Texas is one of 23 states that restrict some form of gender-affirming care for transgender people under 18. Other states, like California and New York, have passed laws protecting access to care, which has created a patchwork of healthcare access similar to the mosaic of abortion laws that have emerged since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in 2022.

Similar legal battles are moving through the courts across the country. Parents of transgender youth in Tennessee asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue in November.

The debate over gender-affirming care, a leading issue in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, was central to a broad swath of bills Texas lawmakers pushed through the 2023 legislative session. Republican politicians also passed restrictions on sexually explicit drag shows and transgender athletes last year, but the implications of SB 14 are long reaching and profoundly affecting the lives of Texas families, said doctors who practice gender-affirming medicine.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/30/texas-supreme-court-gender-affirming-care/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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