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Trial over trans youth care in Arkansas draws to close

Testimony wrapped up this week in the trial that will decide if Arkansas doctors can continue providing gender-affirming care to trans youth. Here's a break down.

ARKANSAS, USA — Last year Arkansas became the first state to enact a ban on kids under the age of 18 from being able to get gender-confirming care including hormone treatment, puberty blockers, or surgery.

There have been many eyes on the trial that will decide if Arkansas doctors can continue to provide gender-confirming care for minors.

The trial first began on October 17 and continued through that week—  Then later resumed on Monday, November 28.

Here's what's happened so far this week. 

Thursday, December 1:

The state's wrapped up their defense Thursday. Here's a breakdown of what happened inside the courtroom and what happens next.

Most of the state’s witnesses have been psychiatrists and even one sociologist, but on Wednesday, we saw a shift.

Two witnesses being people who identified as transgender for a period of time in their lives both shared their journey on why they decided to transition in the first place— as well as why they decided to de-transition, describing what both processes were like.

On Thursday the state called their final witness Dr. Paul Rhuz, a pediatric hormone specialist.

While on the stand he explained why he has prescribed puberty blockers or hormone treatment citing it's been for different medical reasons, and he has never prescribed this to trans youth.

He said he doesn't believe there's enough information out there that answers the question do trans youth patients benefit from getting gender-affirming care like hormone treatment and puberty blockers. 

Dr. Rhuz added that he is not the only doctor in his field who feels this way.

The Attorney General's office sent the following statement to THV11:

As Attorney General, I will continue to wholeheartedly defend the SAFE Act; it is my hope that parents and children will be empowered by this information and avoid these permanent, life-altering procedures or medications for children. One point that has been lost in the conversation surrounding the SAFE Act is that the State of Arkansas is not prohibiting children who identify as transgender from receiving the mental healthcare that they may need. Children who identify as transgender are still able to receive counseling services or medications for psychiatric diagnoses, just as any other child would. The State is protecting children from undergoing experimental surgeries and treatments for the purpose of gender transition. The SAFE Act protects children from life-altering, permanent decisions that they may desire to make as an underage child but could regret as an adult; no law in Arkansas prevents someone from making these decisions as an adult.

The trial wrapped up a little bit before 2:30 p.m. which was a bit later than what we've seen the past few days.

The next step is both sides agreeing on a date for post-trial briefs. From there the decision is up to Judge Moody on if this ban does stay.

Wednesday, November 30: 

With one day left for the state to wrap up its defense, three witnesses took the stand on Wednesday.

The first person to take the stand was Psychiatrist Dr. Roger Hiatt. 

The ACLU asked him about a letter he sent to Governor Asa Hutchinson in support of the ban on trans youth getting gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone treatment.

He titled his letter with a bible verse and when asked why religion was a part of the debate Dr. Hiatt explained that everyone's beliefs influence their views while they're being questioned.

So far this week, the state’s witnesses have been psychiatrists and on Tuesday one was a sociologist.
There was a shift on Wednesday with the second and third witnesses being people who identified as transgender for a period of time in their lives.

Both shared their journey on why they decided to transition in the first place and why they decided to de-transition. They described what both processes were like. 

They both explained that they were happy when they first transitioned, but the happiness did not last long, they then also talked about the effects of surgery or hormone treatment.

When it was the ACLU's turn to ask the questions, they pointed out how one witness already had medical conditions prior to transitioning, and one of their surgeries would have been needed regardless of if they were transitioning or not.

That witness agreed with that argument. As for the second witness, the ACLU pointed out there were no physical effects that could attribute to the hormone treatment.

It was an argument that witnesses agreed with as well. 

The ACLU then pointed out that neither person is from Arkansas or got their gender-affirming care in the state and that both began the process of transitioning when they were well over the age of 18.

The ACLU also mentioned how neither one is aware of how doctors in Arkansas provide gender-affirming care and how religion played a role in both witnesses’ decision to de-transition.

The trial wrapped up at about 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday and things will pick back up on Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m.

The state explained that they will only have one witness taking the stand.

Tuesday, November 29: 

Tuesday, the trial picked back up at 9:00 am and two people took the stand. The first was sociologist Mark Regnerus. The second person to take the stand plastic surgeon of 30 years Dr. Patrick Lappert.

When the state asked if he has treated transgender patients Dr. Lappert said as far as surgery, he's had one transgender patient and that patient was de-transitioning.

The ACLU asked Dr. Lappert to just speak on his expertise as a plastic surgeon and that is what we saw going forward throughout the afternoon.

The trial wrapped up right after 1:00 pm and will pick back up Wednesday morning at 9:00 am. They hope to wrap up the trial this week then we await a decision from Judge Jay Moody.

Monday, November 28: 

The first person to take the stand on day one of the trial was Dr. Dan Karasic, a member of the American Psychiatric Association and psychiatrist of over 30 years. 

He spoke on his expertise as someone who has treated transgender youth.

Dr. Karasic also mentioned how some youth who have already gotten gender-affirming care like hormone treatment have adjusted to it, and taking it away could cause harm. 

He also expressed how if the law were to pass, it would lead people to be forced into having to de-transition.

On Monday another psychiatrist was called in by the state. 

Dr. Stephen Levine has been a psychiatrist for nearly 50 years and was formerly part of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

He explained how many clinicians who give gender-affirming care such as hormone treatment, have said that patients are happier. Though he believes that's a short-term thing.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been working to make sure trans youth in Arkansas can still get the care they seek.

When given the chance to question Dr. Levine, the ACLU brought up past depositions and potential contradictions to what he said on Monday.

Various medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, opposed the bans and experts explained that the treatments are safe if administered properly.

When we reached out to both the Attorney General's Office and the ACLU, neither one provided any comment.

Neither of the two doctors who have spoken at the trial is from Arkansas nor do they treat patients in the Natural State.

This week the state will finish its defense but for now, the law is still blocked.

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