August 12, 2022

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The Legal System

Alabama law banning transgender medication challenged in two lawsuits

3 min read

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Families with transgender teens sued the state of Alabama in federal court on Monday to overturn a law that makes it a crime for doctors to treat trans youth under 19 with puberty blockers or hormones to help affirm their gender identity.

The two lawsuits — one on behalf of two families and another on behalf of two families and the physicians who treat their children — pose legal challenges to legislation signed into law Friday by Republican Governor Kay Ivey.

“Transgender youth are a part of Alabama, and they deserve the same privacy, access to treatment, and data-driven health care from trained medical professionals as any other Alabamian,” Tish Gotell Faulks, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said in a statement. Faulks added that lawmakers are using children as, “political pawns for their reelection campaigns.” Ivey and legislators face primaries next month.

Unless blocked by the court, the Alabama law will take effect May 8, making it a felony for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to aid in the gender transition of anyone under age 19. Violations will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It also prohibits gender transition surgeries, although doctors told lawmakers those are not performed on minors in Alabama.

“The level of legislative overreach into the practice of medicine is unprecedented. And never before has legislative overreach come into pediatric examination rooms to shut down the parent voice in medical decision making between a parent, their pediatrician and their child,” Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a medical provider and a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Ivey signed the legislation Friday, a day after it was approved by the Alabama Legislature. At a campaign stop Monday, the governor invoked religion when asked about her decision to sign the legislation.

“If the good Lord made you a boy at birth, then you are a boy. If the good Lord made you a girl at birth, then you are a girl,” she said. “We should especially focus our efforts on helping these young people become healthy adults just like God wanted them to be rather than self-induced medical intervenors.”

Asked if the law would survive a court challenge, she replied, “We’ll wait and see.”

The two lawsuits were filed by advocacy groups on behalf of families with transgender children, as well as by two medical providers. The children were not identified in the lawsuits because of their age.

“I know that I am a girl and I always have been,” one of the 15-year-old plaintiffs said in a statement provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. “Even before I learned the word ‘transgender’ or met other trans people, I knew myself.”

In one of the lawsuits, parents described their fears that their transgender daughter, called “Mary Roe” in the suit, would harm herself or try to commit suicide if she loses access to the puberty blockers she began taking last year. “For Mary to be forced to go through male puberty would be devastating; it would predictably result in her experiencing isolation, depression, anxiety, and distress,” the lawsuit states.

Similar measures have been pushed in other states, but the Alabama legislation is the first to lay out criminal penalties for doctors.

A bill banning gender-affirming medication become law in Arkansas last year after the Republican-led legislature overrode a veto from Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed an order in February requiring the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate instances of minors receiving gender-affirming care as child abuse. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey last month signed a bill into law banning gender-affirming surgery for anyone in the state under the age of 18. The Arizona law does not ban puberty blocking hormones and other hormone therapies, and would not require minors already taking this medications to stop.

Ivey also signed a separate measure that requires students to use bathrooms that align with their original birth certificate and prohibits instruction of gender and sexual identity in kindergarten through fifth grades.  

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