Trans community breathes sigh of relief as Supreme Court rejects puberty blockers case

The Supreme Court has rejected yet another attempt to deny trans kids access to life-saving puberty blockers. 

Keira Bell first launched legal action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), the only gender clinic for trans youth in the UK, in 2019. 

She was joined in the High Court case, Bell v Tavistock, by “Mrs A”, a parent who wanted to prevent her then 16-year-old child taking puberty-blocking medication.

In a 2020 landmark judicial review, the court ruled in Bell’s favour, saying it was “doubtful” that 14 and 15-year-old’s could consent to taking puberty blockers, and that this was “highly unlikely” for 13-year-olds. This led to the suspension of puberty blockers being prescribed to under-16s.

Trans rights advocate holds a sign that reads ‘trans kids lives matter’. (Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty)

The NHS appealed the ruling and, in September 2021, the High Court’s decision was overturned. The Court of Appeal ruled that the High Court was “not equipped” to decide whether trans youth had Gillick competence, a concept used in medical law to decide whether under-16s can consent to their own medical treatment.

The ruling decreed that there was no “real distinction” between puberty blockers and young people being Gillick competent to access contraception.

Bell attempted to appeal the Court of Appeal ruling by taking it to the UK’s Supreme Court. However, on Thursday (5 May), the Supreme Court dismissed her request and said that her appeal application “raised no arguable point of law”.

The trans community breathed a “massive sigh of relief”, with many declaring the decision a “huge victory” for trans kids and their families.

A massive sigh of relief for us at GI, and we hope a small balm to the wider community considering the constant setbacks we’ve all been putting up with the past few months.

— Gendered Intelligence (@Genderintell) May 5, 2022

The Supreme Court has refused Quincy Bell’s application for permission to appeal in the matter of Bell v Tavistock!

A WIN for Gillick competence!

A WIN for trans youth!

— LGBWithTheT (@LGBwiththeT) May 5, 2022

This is a huge victory for trans kids & families in the UK, enabling continued provision of affirming health care for kids; blockers & HRT remain available. Lives will be saved. It also firmly supports medical competency for youth which will prevent challenges on abortion rights

— Stephanie Woolley – Sweet Pea (@StephWoolleyTO) May 5, 2022

But news account What The Trans!?, run by activists Ashleigh Talbot and Michelle Snow, added that the entire case should serve as a “wake-up call” on the tenuous nature of trans rights in the UK.

They tweeted: “I’ll never forget the day it was announced that Keira Bell had won her nonsense judicial review.

“It was a wake up call to how dangerous things had become. I remember so many saying that she couldn’t win. Then she did.

“Never assume a court result.

“She lost the [right to] appeal. But as a result of all this, GIDs didn’t send anyone to the endocrinologist for nearly two years.

“We have to keep fighting and we can never assume that a court case will go our way.”

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