Drake Prof. Says Arkansas Ruling Could Affect Iowa’s Gender-Affirming Care Ban

Photo by Starting Line staff

An Arkansas district judge permanently enjoined the country’s first gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth, a decision that could potentially affect Iowa.

Dozens of states, including Iowa, passed similar bans.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody ruled on Tuesday in favor of gender-affirming care for minors in Arkansas following a two-year battle with state politicians. Moody ruled HB 1570, Act 626 violates the US Constitution, permanently enjoining the state from enforcing the act. 

Under the ban, physicians or health-care professionals are prohibited from providing “gender transition procedures” to anyone under the age of 18, according to the case file. 

Gender-affirming care is age-appropriate, medically necessary care that is “made in consultation with medical and mental health professionals and parents,” according to the Human Rights Campaign. It is also supported by all major medical organizations. The form of health care is life-saving for transgender youth and is linked to lower rates of depression and suicide amongst transgender teens. 

Sally Frank, a Drake University law professor, told Starting Line how this ruling could impact Iowans.

“If there were a lawsuit, the district court judge in Iowa could look at the [Arkansas] decision,” she said. “We call it persuasive authority. You don’t have to follow it, but it’s one district court to another district court.”

Frank explained that if there was a lawsuit against Iowa’s gender-affirming care ban, and the Iowa district court judge thinks the Arkansas case brought up good reasoning, they could cite the case when making a decision.

“When you have a trial, you have to put on evidence,” she said. “Your rhetoric doesn’t work–you have to actually prove things. Once the proof is in, it’s clear that gender-affirming medical care is medically necessary for treatment for many transgender people.”

In the end, Frank said there is no doubt the Arkansas case will have an impact in Iowa.

“Social justice advocates felt it was unconstitutional the moment it was passed, and it’s clearly discriminating against people who are transgender and harmful to the medical and psychological state,” she said. “Therefore, denying that care, especially with this law, is a violation of the rights of transgender people and is dangerous.”

The Arkansas Legislature passed the bill on April 26, 2021, weeks after former Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill, calling it a vast government overreach. Hutchinson said HB 1570 created “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters concerning our young people,” and “put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients, and health-care experts.” 

The Arkansas ruling comes in light of record amounts of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the US, targeting healthcare accessibility, schools and education, civil rights, free speech and expression, and more. The ACLU is currently tracking 491 national anti-LGBTQ bills in 47 states, all introduced in 2023. Iowa ranks in the top five of these bills, with 29 proposed anti-LGBTQ this past legislative session. 

Iowa’s active anti-LGBTQ+ healthcare legislation

SF 538, Iowa’s ban on gender-affirming care, went into effect immediately after Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signed the bill on March 22. 

This was despite objections from Iowa medical practitioners, trans youth, and the families of trans kids who had their parental rights stripped by the state.

SF 538 banned prescription of puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for transgender youth who are considered a “healthy individual.”

The bill also banned gender-affirming surgeries for transgender youth, and prohibited health-care professionals from “knowingly engaging in or causing certain practices to be performed on a minor if the practice is performed for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of, or affirm the minor’s perception of, the minor’s gender or sex.”

Mark Stringer, executive director of ACLU of Iowa,  said the permanent enjoinment of Arkansas’ gender-affirming care ban was wonderful news. 

“Politicians pushing this bill said they think transgender teens might regret getting gender-affirming care when they’re older. Studies don’t support that,” he said. “These parents know their kids deserve the chance to live well and be happy. Laws that ban gender-affirming care for minors make these very kids and their families a target and take away their rights.”


by Grace Katzer


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