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Federal judge strikes down Arkansas ban...

Federal judge strikes down Arkansas ban on “gender-affirming care” for minors

By: Anne Summerhays - June 21, 2023

A similar Mississippi law went into effect after Governor Tate Reeves signed the legislation at the end of February.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Jay Moody issued a permanent injunction against an Arkansas law that banned transition-related medical care for transgender minors, declaring it unconstitutional. The federal judge’s decision comes as many Republican-led states have adopted similar pieces of legislation that would ban “gender-affirming care” for minors.

“Rather than protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics, the evidence showed that the prohibited medical care improves the mental health and well-being of patients and that, by prohibiting it, the State undermined the interests it claims to be advancing,” Judge Moody said.

Though the federal judge’s ruling is only applicable to Arkansas, the decision could have a major impact on other states with similar legislation, including Mississippi. At least 19 other states have enacted laws restricting or banning such procedures for minors and federal judges have temporarily blocked similar bans in Alabama and Indiana. According to the Associated Press, three states have banned or restricted the care through regulations or administrative orders.

During the 2023 Mississippi legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 1125, also known as the Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures (REAP) Act. The law bans reassignment surgeries in the state of Mississippi under the age of 18. It also prevents public funds or tax deductions for prohibited gender transition procedures, places enforcement procedures on the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, and stops Medicaid from covering gender transition for persons under 18.

READ MORE: Reeves signs bill to prevent gender transition procedures in children

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted that Mississippi was the fifth state in the country to ban “gender-affirming care” for transgender youth after Utah and South Dakota passed similar bans.

The Alliance Defending Freedom responded to the news out of Arkansas on Tuesday, tweeting, “Science and common sense tell us that children are not capable of seriously evaluating the lifelong ramifications that come with making critical medical decisions.”

Mississippi Governor Reeves has been a staunch supporter of prohibiting the procedures for minors. When he signed the legislation into law, Reeves said no child in Mississippi will have such drugs and surgeries pushed on them.

“At the end of the day, there are two positions here. One tells children that they’re beautiful the way they are. That they can find happiness in their own bodies. The other tells them that they should take drugs and cut themselves up with expensive surgeries in order to find freedom from depression. I know which side I’m on. No child in Mississippi will have these drugs or surgeries pushed upon them,” said Governor Reeves.

The law in Mississippi passed the state House by a vote of 78-29 and in the state Senate by a vote of 33-15.

State Representative Steve Hopkins, a co-author of House Bill 1125, said he is disappointed by the ruling in Arkansas.

“However, it is important to note that each state’s laws and regulations are unique, and this ruling does not necessarily mean that similar bans in other states will be overturned,” Rep. Hopkins said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and evaluate any potential impact on Mississippi law. Our priority remains protecting the health and well-being of all Mississippians, including youth.”

A spokesperson for Attorney General Lynn Fitch sent Magnolia Tribune the following comment:

We will wait to see if Arkansas appeals, but as we said in our amicus brief before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, “Arkansas took a sober look at the medical literature and determined that ‘[t]he risks of gender transition procedures far outweigh any benefit at this stage of clinical study.’ So it banned the sterilizing treatments for minors. That determination was the State’s to make—no different than if it had banned medical marijuana or euthanasia.”

About the Author(s)
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Anne Summerhays

Anne Summerhays is a recent graduate of Millsaps College where she majored in Political Science, with minors in Sociology and American Studies. In 2021, she joined Y’all Politics as a Capitol Correspondent. Prior to making that move, she interned for a congressional office in Washington, D.C. and a multi-state government relations and public affairs firm in Jackson, Mississippi. While at Millsaps, Summerhays received a Legislative Fellowship with the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi where she worked with an active member of the Mississippi Legislature for the length of session. She has quickly established trust in the Capitol as a fair, honest, and hardworking young reporter. Her background in political science helps her cut through the noise to find and explain the truth. Email Anne: