Trans youth sue over Louisiana’s ban on gender-affirming health care

Five trans youths and their families filed a petition in the District Court of Louisiana on Monday over the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors, claiming such an action “endangered the health and welfare” of the plaintiffs.

The law — formerly HB 648, now Act 466 — bans gender-affirming care for trans people in the state under the age of 18 and penalizes doctors who provide such care, which includes access to hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries. The law went into effect last week on New Year’s Day after the state legislature overriding the veto by the former governor of Louisiana last summer, a Democrat.

The suit claims that the ban deprives parents of their right to protect their children’s health choices and violates the Louisiana state constitution through minors’ right to medical treatment and discriminates against them based on gender and transgender status.

“This health care ban will only harm Louisiana’s trans youth and their families,” they said Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, counsel and health strategist for Lambda Legal, in a statement. “Denying medical care to youth simply because they are transgender is both illegal and inhumane — especially when the same treatment remains available to all other minors.”

Trans minors in Louisiana “face the loss of access to the safe, effective and necessary medical care they need to treat their gender dysphoria, a serious medical condition,” according to the lawsuit, which accuses the state of “choosing transgender minors for discrimination by enacting an outright ban on medical treatment for transgender minors.”

“Having access to gender-affirming hormones and being my true self was a lifesaver,” said one plaintiff, Max Moe. “I’m terrified of what the ban will do to healthcare and I’m worried about how my mental health could deteriorate.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Lambda Legal and Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, as well as a Louisiana law firm in their case.

Trans youth deserve access to health care on the same basis as everyone else,” said Suzanne Davis, a senior clinical fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in their lawsuit.

“By selectively banning such treatments for trans youth, this law deprives Louisiana adolescents of equal access to medically necessary and often life-saving care that is effective in treating gender dysphoria and addressing other serious health conditions such as depression, anxiety and even addiction to suicidal ideation that can occur when gender dysphoria goes untreated,” Davis said.

A study released last July by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that more than 40 percent of transgender adults in the U.S. have attempted suicide — four times more likely than their cisgender counterparts.

The numbers are even worse for trans youth, with 56 percent having attempted suicide, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have spoken out against what the AMA calls “government interference in the practice of medicine that is harmful to the health of transgender and gender-nonconforming children and adults,” continually reaffirming their commitment to support trans youth in seeking gender-affirming care.

“Louisiana has banned this medical treatment only for minors who are transgender, even though it is evidence-based, safe and effective, and supported by all major medical organizations,” Gonzalez-Pagan said.

“The health care ban represents a broad government overreach in the relationships between parents, their children, and their health care providers.”

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