Legal Landscape: Southern States Restrict Gender-Affirming Medical Care

Most states in the American South have enacted laws that prohibit what they categorize as “gender-affirming care” for minors under 18. This category encompasses various methods of gender-affirming care including hormone therapy, puberty blockers and genital mutilation surgery.

According to a report, 12 out of the 16 states that are part of the Southern region have implemented these laws beginning in 2021. This accounts for over half of the transgender-related bans across the nation. These laws are designed to prevent medical professionals from administering these treatments to minors.

Florida and Missouri have gone even further by extending these restrictions to some trans adults. South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have yet to pass similar legislation. Republicans in the state legislatures of Virginia and South Carolina introduced similar bills earlier this year.

In three of the 12 states that have adopted these laws—Louisiana, Kentucky and North Carolina—Democratic governors vetoed the bills. However, these vetoes were overruled by GOP-dominated legislatures. Arkansas followed a similar path in 2021 when then-Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) vetoed a transgender ban.

The state legislature ultimately enacted it into law, making it the nation’s first ban of its kind. Advocates of transgenderism have expressed their anger at their inability to prevent such legislation due to Republicans’ stronghold in the Southern region.

Logan Casey, senior policy researcher for the Movement Advancement Project noted, “Many of the states in the South are effectively a single-party government.” Adam Polanski, director of communications at the Campaign for Southern Equality said, “We’ve seen a long history of the South being used as a laboratory for anti-LGBT legislation.”

In response, progressive organizations have sought to raise funds for families who believe their children are transgender. They also help cover travel expenses to states that support these highly controversial practices. These states are often hundreds of miles away and require a long trip.

Despite legal challenges aiming to overturn these bans, courts have increasingly sided with the state-imposed restrictions. In July, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction on Tennessee’s transgender ban. Just six days later the same Circuit Court lifted an injunction on Kentucky’s ban.

Most recently, on Monday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a year-long injunction on Alabama’s ban. In their decision, a three-judge panel wrote, “The use of these medications in general — let alone for children — almost certainly is not ‘deeply rooted’ in our nation’s history and tradition.”