Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed into law legislation making it easier to sue providers of gender-affirming care for children, a move that could effectively reinstate a blocked ban on such care.
Sanders on Monday signed the new law, which won’t take effect until this summer. It would allow anyone who received gender-affirming care as a minor to file a malpractice lawsuit against their doctor for up to 15 years after they turn 18. Under current Arkansas law, medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years of an injury.
Legal experts have said the change could close access to gender-affirming care for children by making it nearly impossible for providers to get malpractice insurance.
The new law is among a growing number of bills targeting transgender people, who have faced increasingly hostile rhetoric at statehouses. At least 175 bills targeting trans people have been introduced in statehouses so far this year, the most in a single year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
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The bill was signed as a federal judge is considering whether to strike down a 2021 Arkansas law that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone therapy or puberty blockers to anyone under 18 — or referring them to other doctors who can provide that care. No gender-affirming surgery is performed on minors in the state.
U.S. District Judge Jay Moody temporarily blocked the law in 2021. Arkansas was the first state to enact such a ban, and several states have approved similar restrictions. A ban in Alabama has also been blocked by a federal judge.
The new law won’t take effect until 90 days after the Legislature adjourns this year’s session, which isn’t expected to happen until next month at the earliest.
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