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US Court of Appeals reinstates Tennessee law banning medical procedures for transgender youth

US Court of Appeals reinstates Tennessee law banning medical procedures for transgender youth

A US appeals court has ruled that a Tennessee law barring doctors from offering medical treatments such as puberty blockers and surgery to transgender-identifying minors can be implemented immediately.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that advocacy groups challenging the law did not demonstrate a high likelihood of success in showing that it violated the US Constitution. In a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel overturned an earlier ruling that had halted enforcement during the legal challenge.

“[W]While the challengers cite constitutional precedents from the Supreme Court and our Court to make this claim, none of them resolves these claims,” ​​noted Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who wrote the opinion for the appeals court in three judges. “In each case, they seek to extend constitutional guarantees to a new territory.”

Justice Sutton also warned against judges manipulating a controversial and new topic of medical debate by interpreting an unalterable federal constitution to dominate the issue.

“Parents, it is true, have a substantive right to due process ‘to make decisions about the care, custody and control of their children,'” he added. “But Supreme Court cases recognizing that right limit it to fields narrow, like education… and visitation rights. No Supreme Court case extends it to a general right to receive new medical or experimental drug treatments. Given the high risk of constitutionalizing areas of public policy, any such right must be carefully defined.”

The Tennessee legislation is part of a growing trend among Republican lawmakers to impose stricter regulations on medical procedures provided to transgender minors. Supporters of the law argue that it is necessary to protect minors from potential long-term harm, while medical associations argue that attention to gender affirmation can be crucial to saving lives. The law prohibits any medical procedure performed with the intent of assisting a minor in transitioning to a gender other than their biologically determined sex.

Federal judges had previously blocked five similar laws from enforcement, finding them a violation of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the law. However, the appeals court’s recent decision suggests that questions regarding controversial medical procedures provided to minors are best resolved by state legislatures unless a clear violation of the Constitution is shown.

Judge Helen White expressed her belief that the Tennessee law is likely to be found unconstitutional because it is purportedly “discriminatory” in nature. Judge Sutton stressed that the appeals court aims to issue a final decision on the law by September 30 and acknowledged that the initial outlook may be subject to revision.

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