Texas Supreme Court lets ban on sex changes for minors go into effect Sept. 1

transgender surgery Image credit: ADragan/Shutterstock

In a last-minute decision, the Texas Supreme Court allowed a state law to go into effect that prohibits doctors from performing sex change surgeries on children or prescribing them drugs to facilitate a sex change.

The law was allowed to go into effect as scheduled on Friday, Sept. 1, after the state’s highest court refused to grant a request from the Texas American Civil Liberties Union and other groups for emergency temporary relief. The coalition had asked the court to block the implementation of the law while a lawsuit over its constitutionality is ongoing.

With this decision, the Texas Supreme Court overruled a decision from the lower Travis County District Court, which would have prevented the law from going into effect. The Supreme Court did not provide a written reasoning for its decision to overrule the district court and allow the law to go into effect.

The ACLU of Texas expressed frustration over the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling. In a joint statement with other organizations involved with the lawsuit, the ACLU said it looks forward to continuing the fight.

“A Travis County District Court had granted a temporary injunction last week that blocked implementation of the ban, but the Texas attorney general immediately appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, thereby staying the injunction,” the statement read. “The Texas Supreme Court did not provide any written explanation for allowing the law to remain in effect.”

Jonathan Covey, the director of policy for Texas Values, praised the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement. Texas Values worked with lawmakers to craft the legislation.

“Texas kids are safer today because of the Supreme Court ruling on [the legislation],” Covey said. “Protecting children from harmful and dangerous gender transition surgeries and puberty blockers is in the best interests of the child and something we all agree on.”

What does the law do?

Now that the law is in effect, doctors are prohibited from performing genital surgery on minors as a means to facilitate a gender transition. This prevents any sterilization procedures, such as surgeries that would remove the child’s genitals and replace them with prosthetic genitals that resemble those of the opposite sex.

The law also prohibits the removal of healthy breasts and any other nondiseased and healthy part of the body when meant to facilitate a gender transition.

Along with the prohibition on surgeries, doctors are also prohibited from prescribing puberty blockers or any other drugs to delay the normal development of puberty. It also prevents doctors from prescribing estrogen or testosterone treatments that would give the patient higher levels than are normal for a healthy child of his or her sex and age. 

In cases in which doctors began drug treatments for a child prior to the ban going into effect, the doctor is required to wean the child off of the treatments over a period of time that is safe and medically appropriate.

The law only applies when such drugs or surgeries are used to facilitate a gender transition. It provides exceptions for drugs to be used for normalizing puberty. It also provides an exception for medically necessary and appropriate procedures for children who are born with ambiguous genitalia or other sex development disorders or an abnormal sex chromosome structure.

Doctors who violate the law will have their medical license revoked. The law also grants the attorney general’s office the authority to bring action against any person who violates the new policy.

The law also prohibits medical assistance programs from covering the services prohibited in these rules and Medicaid from reimbursing such services. It also prohibits any public money from being given to any health care provider, medical school, hospital, physician, or any other entity that provides or facilitates such services.

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