Texas Supreme Court upholds ban on sex surgery for minors

(The Center Square) – The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that Texas’ new ban on sex surgery and other gender altering procedures for minors is legal.

The ruling is final and ends litigation that attempted to reverse the high court’s ruling last August allowing the law to go into effect Sept. 1, 2023.

The court ruled 8-1 Friday in favor of the law and vacated a lower court ruling. Justice Rebecca Huddle delivered the opinion, joined by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, and Justices Jeff Boyd, John Devine, Jimmy Blacklock, Brett Busby, Jane Bland, and Evan Young.

“We conclude the Legislature made a permissible, rational policy choice to limit the types of available medical procedures for children, particularly in light of the relative nascency of both gender dysphoria and its various modes of treatment and the Legislature’s express constitutional authority to regulate the practice of medicine,” Huddle wrote. “We therefore conclude the statute does not unconstitutionally deprive parents of their rights or physicians or health care providers of an alleged property right in their medical licenses or claimed right to occupational freedom.

“We also conclude the law does not unconstitutionally deny or abridge equality under the law because of sex or any other characteristic asserted by plaintiffs. We therefore reverse and vacate the trial court’s order.”

Blacklock filed a separate concurring opinion, joined by Devine. Busby and Young filed separate concurring opinions.

Justice Debra Lehrmann filed the sole dissenting opinion, saying the law enabled the state to “legislate away fundamental parental rights.”

“The State’s categorical statutory prohibition prevents these parents, and many others, from developing individualized treatment plans for their children in consultation with their physicians, even the children for whom treatment could be lifesaving,” she wrote. “The law is not only cruel — it is unconstitutional.”

The ruling came 11 months after the Office of the Attorney General filed a Notice of Accelerated Interlocutory Appeal with the Texas Supreme Court stating it was staying a lower court’s ruling that sought to block the law from going into effect, The Center Square reported. The high court rejected an emergency appeal filed by plaintiffs in response, allowing the law to go into effect.

At issue is SB 14, filed by two doctors: Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Houston. The bill passed the legislature with bipartisan support last May and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law last June.

It prohibits procedures and treatments for gender transitioning or gender reassignment from being performed on minors suffering from gender dysphoria and prohibits public money or public assistance from being used to fund such procedures and treatments.

It amends the state Health and Safety Code to prohibit a child health plan, including health care providers and Medicaid, from providing coverage for services “intended to transition a child’s biological sex as determined by the child’s sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous profiles,” according to the bill language, among other prohibitions.

Several plaintiffs sued to stop the law from going into effect, arguing it is unconstitutional. They include five Texas families, three medical professionals, and two organizations represented by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Transgender Law Center and others.

In response to the ruling, Lambda Legal’s senior counsel Karen Loewy said, “Instead of leaving medical decisions concerning minor children where they belong, with their parents and their doctors, the Court here has elected to let politicians – in blatant disregard for the overwhelming medical consensus – determine the allowed course of treatment, threatening the health and the very lives of Texas transgender youth.”

ACLU of Texas policy strategist Ash Hall said, “Our government shouldn’t deprive trans youth of the health care that they need to survive and thrive – while offering that exact same health care to everyone else. Texas politicians’ obsession with attacking trans kids and their families is needlessly cruel.”

Campbell lauded the ruling, saying it “is a victory for common sense and the protection of our children. Senate Bill 14, which we passed to prohibit experimental medical treatments for minors aimed at gender transitioning, ensures that we are upholding the safety and well-being of Texas’ youth.

“As both a physician and a state senator, I know firsthand the importance of making medical decisions that are based on sound science and long-term health outcomes. This law is crucial in preventing irreversible medical procedures on children who are not yet capable of making such life-altering decisions. This decision reiterates the legislature’s commitment to protect our state’s next generation. We will keep working to ensure that Texas remains a state where the health and well-being of our children are always at the forefront.”

Oliverson said throughout the debate on the bill, he and Campbell “consistently argued that Texas has the constitutional authority (and quite frankly the duty) to regulate the practice of medicine,” adding it was “very gratifying to see the Supreme Court of Texas concurs.”