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Judge promises quick ruling on gender transition care law

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A federal judge on Wednesday said he will decide “as soon as possible” whether or not to block a looming ban on gender transition procedures for minors.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the law on April 5. It prohibits minors from accessing hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgical procedures for the purposes of gender transition care.

The law specifically allows such treatments for any purpose other than gender transition. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana pounced almost immediately, filing a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of four transgender minors who live in Indiana and their families.

ACLU lawyer Ken Falk on Wednesday told Judge James Hanlon the law would force the minors to experience puberty, causing irreversible physical changes inconsistent with their gender identity.

Falk says although gender transition treatments have never been subjected to randomized, controlled trials, the benefits thousands of transgender people have enjoyed from such procedures over the years are more than enough to prove it works.

The Indiana Youth Group estimates there are about 3,350 transgender people between the ages of 13 and 17 in Indiana.

During the bill’s trip through the legislature, its supporters raised the specter of teens undergoing treatment and later regretting it. At least three people who de-transitioned spoke in favor of the bill.

What survey data is available suggests such cases do happen but they’re rare. A 2015 survey of 28,000 transgender adults by the National Center for Transgender Equality found just 0.4 percent of the transgender population reported de-transitioning because they felt it was not right for them.

Moreover, Falk notes the law does not prohibit hormone therapy or puberty blockers, or their attendant side effects, for other purposes. He says the law amounts to sex-based discrimination.

“It’s shocking that Indiana is willing to inflict this sort of harm on persons,” he said. “Indiana says we’re doing this to protect the children, but there’s no evidence of that. What we have are parents and children and their doctors providing this care and the kids are getting better.”

Arguing on behalf of the state, Solicitor General Tom Fisher says there is no objectively verifiable way to diagnose gender dysphoria in children. He also notes recent decisions by countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden to tighten the rules on when minors can access gender-affirming care.

He says the state already has the authority to regulate medical procedures and has a vested interest in protecting its people from potentially dangerous effects.

“What they’re discovering is that the scientific studies that are cited to support the use of medical intervention for gender dysphoria for minors simply does not show causation,” he said. “I think that that’s a really critical part of understanding what’s going on in this situation.”

Falk says the countries in question only blocked access to such treatments through their national health care systems, not through private physicians.

Federal judges in other states, including Arkansas, have put similar laws on hold. No court has yet ruled on the constitutionality of such laws.