Just hours after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s signed Senate Bill 480, which bans gender-affirming health care for transgender children, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of four transgender children and their families.
The suit names as defendants the members of the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, the executive director of the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, Attorney General Todd Rokita, and the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and its secretary.
It was filed in Southern Indiana District Court and asserts that SB 480 will violate, in part, the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The suit additionally claims that this law will violate the federal requirements of the Medicaid and Affordable Care Act because it will prohibit essential medical services that would otherwise be authorized and reimbursed by Medicaid.
The law will ban gender-affirming health care—including surgeries, puberty blockers and hormones—for transgender individuals under 18. Trans minors receiving care as of July 1, 2023, will lose access to that care after six months, and those who have not received medical care by July 1, 2023, will be unable to begin receiving it in Indiana.
“This is a devastating development for transgender youth in Indiana and heartbreaking for all of us who love and support them,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of the Indiana ACLU in a statement. “Indiana politicians continue to fail trans youth, so it is up to each and every one of us to rise against their ignorance and surround these young people with strength, safety, and love.
She continued: “In addition to targeting an already vulnerable group, this law blatantly disregards the rights of parents and families to make decisions about their children’s health. The ACLU is dedicated to overturning this unconstitutional law and is confident the state will find itself completely incapable of defending it in court.”
Meanwhile, Attorney General Todd Rokita indicated he will fight the ACLU’s attempt to overturn the law, tweeting, “Thankful for the General Assembly’s hard work to ensure our children are protected. This was common sense legislation, and my office is ready to defend it in court.”
Two of the parent-plaintiffs, Beth and Nathanial Clawson, noted in an ACLU press release that their plaintiff daughter, currently 10, is fearful about what will happen to her if she cannot get gender-affirming medical care when puberty begins.
“Starting around the age of 2 years old, our daughter began telling us who she is. When she was 3 1/2 years old, after researching gender dysphoria and consulting with both her therapist and pediatrician, she socially transitioned,” said Beth Clawson.
“That means we started using she/her pronouns and letting her dress as a girl. That was seven years ago, and she hasn’t wavered at all in knowing who she is.”
Last year, Holcomb vetoed a bill restricting trans children on sport teams, but the Assembly overrode it. Many wondered if he would follow suit with this bill after he called it “clear as mud” on Tuesday. He explained why he signed the bill in a statement on Wednesday:
“Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor. There has and will continue to be debate within the medical community about the best ways to provide physical and mental health care for adolescents who are struggling with their own gender identity, and it is important that we recognize and understand those struggles are real. With all of that in mind, I have decided to sign SB 480 into law.”
The bill was authored by Sen. Tyler Johnson, R-Leo, who said the legislative body has a moral, medical and legal obligation to protect kids from harm. He also released a statement:
“I am very pleased to see Gov. Holcomb support my bill, which addresses the need to protect a group of vulnerable Hoosier children. We have the utmost compassion for children suffering with gender dysphoria and they deserve sensible counseling,” Johnson said.
“Gender related procedures on children are growing at an alarming rate in the United States while other countries are scaling back their use. Since these procedures have irreversible and life-altering effects, it is appropriate and necessary for our state to make sure these procedures are performed only on adults who can make the decision on their own behalf.”
Democrats had strenuously objected to the bill as it made its way through the General Assembly, including Sen. Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, who said doctors in Indiana do not perform gender-affirming care on trans minors. She pushed back on the notion this bill was about protecting youths.
“It’s a group of adult legislators bullying, harassing and discriminating against children and parents of these children,” she said.
On March 27, when the bill passed the House, Rep. Blake Johnson, D-Indianapolis, said the bill sent a message about the Assembly’s values.
“With Senate Bill 480, we are sending a signal to a very specific group of Hoosiers: young people who are among our most vulnerable, our most isolated, our most likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. We say to them not that we’re here for them but rather that there is, in fact, something wrong with them,” Johnson said.
Rep. Vernon G. Smith, D-Gary, spoke out in an op-ed published by The Statehouse File, saying that gender-affirming care could save a child’s life and that many doctors and health-care professionals assured legislators that no children in Indiana are receiving surgical or irreversible treatments.
“Senate Bill 480 is state-sanctioned bullying, plain and simple, ” Smith said.
On Wednesday, Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, expressed his warned about Republican overreach.
“Conservatives are leaning into the culture wars and putting politics over parents,” GiaQuinta said. “Let’s face it: no parent has it all figured out but the last thing they need is help from politicians.
“Hoosiers value freedom, family and the opportunity to live life with minimal interference from the government. Indiana Republicans—supposedly the party of small government—have now given themselves the unilateral authority to dictate what health care choices parents are able to make for their children. This legislation or issue may not affect your family directly, but should be a warning to every Hoosier that, with the swipe of a pen, your liberties can be taken by the Indiana GOP.”
According to the ACLU, the ban is opposed by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.