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Sarah Sanders Signs Bill Effectively Ending Trans Care for Minors

We have been running a series of items and reader comments about and from trans people last week and this week. One of the main reasons for this attention is that it is a hot political issue and will certainly figure in the 2024 elections. As evidence of how political (as opposed to personal) it has become, consider Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR), who has been on the job only 2 months. One of the earliest laws she signed was on Monday. It would allow anyone who has received gender-affirming care to file a malpractice lawsuit against their doctor for up to 15 years after they turn 18. Under current Arkansas law, malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 2 years of the injury. Under the new law, a doctor who provided such care for a 12-year-old could be sued up to 21 years later if the patient had a change of heart.

Under these conditions, providers will never be able to get malpractice insurance and without that, they won't be willing to provide this kind of care. De facto, this will eliminate gender-affirming care for minors in the state, but done in such a way that the courts are unlikely to throw the law out because all it does technically is change the statute of limitations for lawsuits. This indirect approach is needed because the state legislature passed an earlier bill directly prohibiting this kind of care and the courts blocked it. This workaround might well pass muster with the courts because it does not involve the state in telling doctors how to practice medicine, as the old law did. The law does have a safe-harbor provision that gives doctors a defense if sued years later, but only if they followed very restricted standards of care.

This isn't the only anti-trans bill the Arkansas legislature is working on. Another one would make it a crime to use a public bathroom reserved for the sex not on the user's birth certificate. This bill goes even further than the famed North Carolina "bathroom bill" that cost Pat McCrory his job as governor. (V)

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