Healthcare Bans are an Attack on Our Community’s Well-being, Decision-making, and Freedom

“Taking away our opportunity to help our daughter live a healthy and happy life is cruel and unfair.”

The quotes on this page are all from Florida parents GLAD represents in Doe v. Ladapo challenging a policy, first enacted by the state Boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine codified in SB 254, that bans them from meeting essential healthcare needs for their transgender children. GLAD’s Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights, Jennifer Levi, was in federal court in Tallahassee on May 19 asking the judge to halt the ban and stop the unimaginable cruelty and distress these families face because they can’t access the healthcare they need.

In the ongoing campaign against LGBTQ+ rights, extremist forces are pushing for discriminatory legislation that specifically targets vulnerable members of our community, particularly LGBTQ+ youth and their families. One of the most alarming aspects of this campaign is the banning and, in some cases, criminalizing of safe and effective medical care for transgender youth.

“This ban puts me and other parents in the nightmare position of not being able to help our child when they need us most.”

As of May 2023, at least 19 states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia) have implemented these policies.

These bans disregard scientific evidence, representing an unjustified intrusion into personal and family medical decision-making. They contradict established guidelines based on extensive clinical research and are endorsed by esteemed medical associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Doctors with expertise in treating the distress experienced by transgender youth unable to live authentically, as well as parents who witness the positive transformation in their transgender children when supported, widely criticize these bans.

“Having the resources and support to make the best decisions for our daughter’s wellbeing has been so important for our family. We just want to do what’s right for our kid.”

GLAD is challenging the bans in Florida and Alabama, arguing that they unlawfully deprive parents of their right to make decisions about their children’s medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them essential, doctor-recommended healthcare.

In fact, LGBTQ+ legal organizations are contesting these policies in nearly every state where they have been passed.

Encouragingly, even judges in the most conservative communities have recognized the unconstitutional nature of these bans, which infringe upon parents’ rights to make informed healthcare choices for their children and unfairly target transgender adolescents. Although litigation is ongoing, judges have issued temporary injunctions against these bans in Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma and permanently blocked the ban in Arkansas.

Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver
Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver

Last spring, GLAD helped secure a federal judge’s ruling in Alabama that blocked implementing the state’s criminal ban while the case moves forward. As we prepare for an anticipated trial, this injunction remains in effect.

In Florida, our motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the ban became more urgent when the state legislature passed SB 254 at the end of the session. This new law codifies the Boards of Medicine bans and adds criminal and civil penalties.

On June 6, a federal judge issued a strong ruling that blocks the enforcement of SB 254 and the Boards of Medicine rules for the plaintiff families, ensuring that their children can continue to access needed care.

The ruling also makes it clear that the law is unconstitutional and that the plaintiffs are likely to prevail once the Court issues a final ruling on the merits. It says powerfully that the ban violates parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children and violates the equal protection rights of transgender people by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare.

Halting and overturning these harmful laws is crucial to safe-guarding access to essential healthcare and ensuring that parents of transgender youth can continue to provide guidance and support. It is also vital in countering the spread of misinformation, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and attacks on scientific knowledge and bodily autonomy, which aim to hinder progress.

“Our daughter is a happy, confident child, but this ban takes away our right to provide her with recommended healthcare.”

While LGBTQ+ community members and advocates are diligently working to halt these laws and provide support through mutual aid and information sharing, several states are also taking positive steps. As of May 2023, ten states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington— and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that protect transgender people’s access to healthcare. These laws include provisions to shield patients and providers from punitive measures in other states.

Additionally, bills addressing similar concerns are pending in Maine, Oregon, and elsewhere. These efforts reflect the widespread recognition of these healthcare bans for what they truly are: attacks on science, our families, our autonomy over our bodies, and our freedom and dignity. All of us — LGBTQ+ youth, adults, parents and families, supporters, and sensible policymakers — must join forces to reverse this backward trend and instead propel our nation toward greater liberation for all.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2023 GLAD Briefs newsletter. Read more.