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January 19, 2022

ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL URGES FEDERAL APPEALS COURT TO PROTECT TRANSGENDER TEENS’ ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE

Chicago  — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, as part of a coalition of 21 attorneys general, today supported a challenge to an unconstitutional Arkansas law that prohibits health care professionals from providing transgender teenagers with medically-necessary care.

In an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, Raoul and the attorneys general urge the court to affirm a lower court judgment that blocked enforcement of Arkansas’ Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE Act. Despite medical consensus that gender-affirming care has a positive impact on adolescents with gender dysphoria, the law seeks to prohibit physicians and other health care providers from providing this treatment or referring minors to other health care providers.

“Arkansas’ law is not based on widely-accepted medical standards, and it jeopardizes the physical and mental health of transgender adolescents,” Raoul said. “Transgender teens deserve access to gender-affirming care, and I am committed to opposing misguided attempts to deny them of that right.”

In April 2021, the Arkansas General Assembly passed the measure to prohibit health care professionals from providing gender-affirming treatments to transgender teenagers. The law also bans providers from issuing teen patients referrals for such treatment. Health care providers who fail to comply with the law could lose their professional licenses or face other professional discipline. In July 2021, a district court blocked the law from taking effect and enjoined Arkansas’ attorney general from enforcing any of its provisions while litigation is pending.

Arkansas is the only state with a law banning medical treatments prescribed for gender transition. In today’s amicus brief, Raoul and the attorneys general point out that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Raoul and the coalition also argue that access to gender-affirming health care must be protected, as it adheres to well-accepted medical standards. In addition, the attorneys general state that decisions made between children, their families and their doctors that are based on widely-accepted medical practices should be protected. Analysis has shown that while removing medical exclusions for transgender patients has had little impact on premium costs, the benefits have had a major impact on transgender people – including reduced suicide risk and lower rates of substance use.

Transgender people with gender dysphoria often suffer from severe distress due to the stigma associated with their gender identity. Among transgender people, there are higher rates of having serious thoughts of suicide and actual attempts at suicide than the overall U.S. population. Those risks are even higher among transgender youth. According to research cited in the brief, if unaddressed, gender dysphoria can impact quality of life; cause fatigue; trigger decreased social functioning, including reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope with the impacts of discrimination; and lead to an increased risk of HIV and AIDS due to inadequate access to care.

A survey in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that for youth under the age of 18, the use of gender-affirming hormone therapy was associated with 39% lower odds of recent depression and 38% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to youth who wanted but did not receive such therapy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that transgender students were more likely to report being threatened or injured with a weapon at school, experiencing sexual dating violence, physical dating violence, bullying at school, electronic bullying, and feeling unsafe at or traveling to or from school.

Joining Attorney General Raoul in filing the amicus brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

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