Monday, December 11

Alabama approves bill to make gender-affirming care for minors a felony

Story at a glance

  • Alabama lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that would make providing gender-affirming care to minors a felony.

  • Legislators also approved a bill to bar transgender students from using facilities like restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. An amendment to that bill would also prevent educators from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • More than 30 bills nationwide aim to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for trans and nonbinary minors.

Alabama lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care, including  puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries, for transgender and nonbinary minors. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey (R) for either a signature or a veto.

The bill, passed on what is likely the final day of the state’s legislative session, would be the first piece of legislation nationwide to make providing gender-affirming care to patients younger than 19 years old a felony, punishable by up to a decade in prison.

State senators on Thursday also sent another bill, House Bill 322, back to the House of Representatives for final approval. Under the bill, transgender youth would be prohibited from using gender-segregated facilities like restrooms or locker rooms in schools that match their gender identity. A last-minute amendment to the bill also bars educators from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

In a statement, Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, said state legislators in Alabama had pushed for the “most extreme anti-transgender agenda we’ve seen to date.”

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“Criminalizing doctors, isolating trans youth from their support systems, and stigmatizing conversations around LGBTQ identity will only fuel more bullying, anxiety, and suicide risk among these youth,” Ames, who prefers a gender-neutral pronoun, said. “We urge Governor Ivey to reject this extreme package and put a stop to these policies before they threaten more lives.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center and the law firm Cooley LLP on Thursday said they would file a legal challenge to legislation criminalizing gender-affirming care should it be signed into law.

“If the state moves forward in passing this unconstitutional bill, we’ll see them in court,” Kaitlin Welborn, staff attorney for the ACLU of Alabama, said Thursday.

More than 200 bills targeting LGBTQ+ people have been introduced in state legislatures this year, including more than 30 aiming to restrict access to gender-affirming health care for trans and nonbinary minors.

Including the two bills passed Thursday, Alabama this year has introduced at least six bills considered discriminatory toward LGBTQ+ people by the group Freedom for All Americans, which tracks such legislation.

But that tally excludes efforts to restrict access to gender-affirming care outside of the state legislature. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in February ordered state agencies to investigate the parents of trans and nonbinary minors for “abusing” their children by allowing them to receive gender-affirming care.

Those investigations have since been halted following a statewide injunction from a Texas judge, though Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has filed to appeal that decision.

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To date, just one state state – Arkansas – has passed legislation blocking access to gender-affirming services for minors, though a federal judge in July blocked its enforcement.

Gender-affirming care for young people has been endorsed by some of the nation’s leading medical associations, and studies have found that receiving gender-affirming medical care earlier in life is associated with a lower risk of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. 

A 2020 study published in the journal of Pediatrics found that transgender people who received puberty blockers during adolescence had a lower risk of suicidal ideation as adults.

According to a recent poll from The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, a majority of adults believe transgender minors should have access to gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, if it is recommended by their doctor and supported by their parents. 

Roughly 30 percent of adults said they believed lawmakers should have the ability to outlaw gender-affirming care for individuals under the age of 19, even if it goes against the recommendations of health care professionals.

Published on Apr. 07, 2022

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