Metro Weekly

Georgia Can Discipline Doctors Treating Trans Youth

A federal judge has allowed authorities in Georgia to penalize and punish doctors who prescribe gender-affirming treatments to youth.

Illustration: Todd Franson

A federal judge allowed a Georgia law banning hormonal interventions for transgender youth to take effect earlier this week, in order to comply with a federal court ruling last month.

On August 21, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s injunction blocking state authorities from enforcing a similar law in Alabama.

In a decision criticized by LGBTQ advocates, Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa, a Trump appointee, ruled that the district court had applied the wrong standard when determining whether to issue an injunction blocking the law.

Lagoa argued that there is no constitutional right of parents to “treat [one’s] children with transitioning medications subject to medically accepted standards,” as argued by plaintiffs.

This comes even though the Supreme Court, in numerous other legal battles, has ruled parents possess a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit.

As a result of Lagoa’s opinion, the Alabama law was allowed to go into effect. State authorities can punish doctors who prescribe gender-affirming treatments to minors suffering from gender dysphoria. 

Given the 11th Circuit’s jurisdiction over Georgia, it was only a matter of time before the courts allowed authorities in the Peach State to enforce a nearly identical law — which technically went into effect on July 1 — barring those under age 18 from accessing gender-affirming treatments.

On September 5, U.S. District Judge Sarah Geraghty, of the Northern District of Georgia, issued an order pausing an injunction she issued on the day prior to the 11th Circuit’s decision. 

In issuing that initial injunction, Geraghty found that a group of four transgender plaintiffs and their parents would suffer “irreparable harm” if the law were not halted while its constitutionality is debated in the courts.

Following the 11th Circuit’s decision, Geraghty paused the injunction, but refused — despite the protestations of proponents of the law — to completely vacate the injunction, reports The Hill.

As a result, Georgia can now discipline and potentially pull the medical licenses of practitioners who prescribe gender-affirming treatments to minors, including surgical and hormonal interventions. 

Georgia’s law does contain a limited exception for youth who have already started hormone therapy by allowing them to continue their course of treatment, but bars new patients from accessing those same treatments.

And, hypocritically, Georgia’s law — which echoes similar legislation passed in 21 other states — also permits doctors to prescribe hormonal treatments and perform surgeries on intersex youth in order to “force” their bodies to conform to a binary gender expression or appearance.

In July, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a ban on gender-affirming care in Tennessee to take effect, ruling that a lower court judge applied the wrong legal standard in issuing an injunction blocking the law. That ruling was subsequently applied to overturn an injunction blocking a similar Kentucky law from being enforced.

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