North Dakota families file lawsuit against trans healthcare law

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:49 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A determined group of adults have filed a lawsuit against a law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary children in the state.

12-year-old Tate Dolney from Fargo does karate and homework like a lot of kids, but he’s also petitioning to get a North Dakota law overturned.

“Our state lawmakers haven’t given me much of a choice. They’re the ones who made it illegal for me to keep getting health care that has made it possible for me to be the happy, healthy kid I am today,” said Dolney.

Three North Dakota families and a pediatrician are challenging a law that resulted from House Bill 1254. They say the legislation infringes on their constitutional rights to bodily autonomy and the right to parent. They say the same care is legal for other youth who are not transgender.

“There is no question that the law that has been passed has had a significant impact on our plaintiffs,” said the plaintiff’s attorney Christina Sambor.

Supporters of the law say gender-affirming care can cause irreversible damage to children’s bodies and they have an obligation to protect children, which they say the law does by prohibiting puberty blockers, sex reassignment surgery and other hormonal medications given to transgender minors.

“But what we’re trying to do is protect a class of citizens of children that don’t otherwise do not have protections if this law were to not go into effect,” said state Representative Brandon Prichard.

The plaintiffs are also requesting an injunction while the case is tried. This would render the law ineffective, similar to the abortion injunction upheld by the North Dakota Supreme Court in March.

“I want every other kid in North Dakota to have the same chance I’ve had, to live their lives as they truly are. I don’t think this is too much to ask. I wish our state lawmakers felt the same,” said Dolney.

Law supporters say this is really an issue of mental and behavioral health, and there are adequate resources to help.

“I mean, they are not making a decision based on any kind of rationale, maybe emotion, but certainly not any type of rationale. So I hope they take a really good look at what it means to protect children,” said Prichard.

The law makes it a misdemeanor for a doctor to prescribe puberty blocker-type medications to transgender or non-binary children. If they do, they could face up to 360 days in jail and $3,000 in fines.

According to Governor Burgum signed 11 trans-related bills last session.