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Attorney General Ford Joins Coalition Urging Court to Protect Access to Healthcare for Transgender Teenagers

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford joined a coalition of state attorneys general in support of a challenge to an unconstitutional Arkansas law that prohibits healthcare professionals from providing transgender teenagers with medically necessary care. 

The coalition of 21 attorneys general filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit urging the court to affirm a district court judgment that blocked enforcement of Arkansas Act 626, the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation” or SAFE Act. Despite medical consensus that gender-affirming care has a positive impact on adolescents with gender dysphoria, the law seeks to prohibit physicians and other healthcare providers from referring or providing this treatment to minors. 

“We must protect our children from discriminatory laws that bar access to necessary, gender-affirming health care,” said AG Ford. “Over and over again, evidence has shown that denying transgender youth access to gender-affirming care has a detrimental effect to their mental health and quality of life.” 

On April 6, 2021, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 626, which bans healthcare providers from providing gender-affirming treatment to transgender teenagers and even providing referrals for such treatment. Under the law, healthcare providers who failed to comply could lose their professional license and be at risk of professional discipline. 

On July 21, 2021, a district court granted a motion for a preliminary injunction blocking the law, and in August, the court enjoined the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office from enforcing any provision of Act 626 during litigation of the case. 

Arkansas is the only state with a law banning medical treatments prescribed for gender transition. In today’s amicus brief, the attorneys general explain that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

  Transgender people with gender dysphoria often suffer from severe distress due to the stigma associated with their gender identity. Among transgender people, there are higher rates of having serious thoughts of suicide and actual attempts at suicide than the overall U.S. population. Those risks are even higher among transgender youth. According to research cited in today’s brief, if unaddressed, gender dysphoria can impact quality of life, cause fatigue and trigger decreased social functioning, including reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope with the impacts of discrimination, and lead to increased risk of HIV and AIDS due to inadequate access to care. 

  A survey in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that for youth under the age of 18, the use of gender-affirming hormone therapy was associated with 39% lower odds of recent depression and 38% lower odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to youth who wanted but did not receive such therapy. 

In today’s brief, the attorneys general argue that access to gender-affirming healthcare must be protected, as it adheres to well-accepted medical standards. 

In Nevada, laws and regulations ensure transgender patients are not denied or limited coverage for ordinarily available healthcare. Laws in Nevada prevent health insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; extend the state Medicaid policy to cover health care related to gender transition; and provide transition-related health care in state employee health benefits.  

In filing today’s amicus brief, Attorney General Ford joined the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. 

A copy of the amicus brief is attached