(RightWing.org) – Republican lawmakers in Arkansas enacted the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act (HB 1570) on April 6, 2021. Then-Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed the measure the previous day, but the state House voted overwhelmingly to override the governor, 72 to 25, with three individuals not voting. Likewise, the Senate pushed the bill forward with 25 yeas and only eight nays.
The SAFE Act mandated several restrictions aimed at protecting individuals under 18 years of age. The measure:
- Prohibited gender transition procedures
- Barred the provision of puberty-blocking drugs and hormone treatments
- Blocked doctors and other healthcare workers from referring minors to any medical professional for gender transition procedures
- Banned the use of public funds for gender transition services.
The bill provided civil remedies for violations but didn’t preclude the state’s attorney general from pursuing criminal penalties.
Arkansas was the first state in the country to pass a law banning gender-confirming treatments and surgical procedures for minors. By June 2023, 20 additional states had enacted similar restrictions, according to information compiled by the ACLU.
However, a federal judge from the US District Court for the Eastern Division of Arkansas’s Central Division recently struck down and permanently enjoined the Arkansas law.
Federal Judge Overturns Arkansas Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Trans Youth
On June 20, District Judge Jay Moody issued his findings of fact and conclusions of law in Brandt v. Rutledge. He struck down the SAFE Act, ruling it violated due process and equal protection rights afforded to transgender youth and families under the Fourteenth Amendment. The judge also determined it ran contrary to the First Amendment rights of healthcare providers.
Moody wrote that the Arkansas law worked contrary to the “mental health and well-being of patients.” Additionally, he noted the SAFE Act “undermined the interests” Arkansas lawmakers claimed to be “advancing” instead of “protecting children or safeguarding medical ethics.” His order also permanently enjoined state officials from enforcing the law.
As it stands, the ruling won’t impact other states. However, Arkansas’ Republican Attorney General Tim Griffin issued a press release, vowing to appeal Moody’s decision to the Eighth Circuit. The statement noted that the judge failed to consider the fact that there is no scientific evidence supporting the premise that children benefit from gender-affirming procedures.
Griffin also expressed his disappointment that the ruling prevents Arkansas from protecting its children “against dangerous medical experimentation” under the auspices of “gender transition.”
It remains unclear how the federal appeal court might rule. However, it upheld a temporary injunction handed down by Moody in the case in July 2021.
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