Alabama legislators voted on Thursday to outlaw medical treatment for transgender young people who are transitioning, adopting some of the nation’s most restrictive wording and threatening physicians and nurses with up to ten years in jail if they don’t comply with the state’s policies.
The act was passed at a time when conservative politicians around the nation have turned their attention to transgender individuals and other L.G.B.T.Q. concerns. They have pushed a slew of laws intended at regulating what physicians refer to as gender-affirming treatment, controlling what children are taught in the classroom about gender and sexuality, and prohibiting certain transgender students from participating in sports at their respective schools.
In other legislative action on Thursday, Alabama senators introduced legislation that would mandate children to use toilets and locker rooms for the sex indicated on their original birth certificates while in school. Also included in the bill was an amendment that would prohibit classroom conversations on gender and sexuality in kindergarten through fifth grade – a version of what opponents refer to as a “Don’t Say Gay” policy that goes farther than similar measures in other states.
The transgender community, as well as members of the medical community, have expressed their opposition to the policies. Since then, additional states have discussed and in some instances adopted laws intended at discouraging physicians and nurses from giving gender-affirming treatment to children and adolescents, but none has enacted legislation that would constitute a criminal violation.
Critics of the Alabama legislation also argue that it might serve as a precedent for politicians in other states to enact similar legislation. Despite the fact that “it’s a fearmongering tactic,” Shelby Chestnut, the director of policy and programmes at the Transgender Law Center, claimed that the move is encouraging other states to go to “extreme lengths.”
Supporters of the law, which is formally known as the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act,” argue that it was enacted to protect children in vulnerable situations. A key argument made by supporters of the bill was that “children under the age of 18 and often their parents are unable to comprehend and fully appreciate the risks and life implications,” including the possibility of permanent sterility, that can result from the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgical procedures.
According to a letter sent to the National Governors Association last year, transition-related care was medically necessary and that failing to provide it could have devastating consequences because transgender people are up to three times more likely than the general population to report or be diagnosed with mental health disorders and are at an increased risk of suicide.
In recent years, legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting gender-affirming treatment for children and adolescents. Arkansas became the first state to restrict physicians from administering gender-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or sex reassignment surgery to anybody under the age of 18 after a federal judge prevented the state from executing the legislation last summer.
Earlier this month, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation in Arizona prohibiting certain types of gender-affirming treatment for youth under 18 years old. Also this year, Tennessee lawmakers adopted legislation prohibiting the administration of hormone-related medications to minors before the age of puberty. Those steps, however, fall short of being classified as felonies under federal law.
Idaho lawmakers are drafting legislation that would be even more restricted, making it a criminal punishable by up to life imprisonment for parents who sought gender-affirming health treatment for their children, even if they did so by travelling outside of the state. The measure has been approved by the State House of Representatives.
It is the most serious drive by anti-transgender rights organisations since the nationwide campaign to restrict bathroom access in 2017 and 2018, when a rush of legislation and discussion erupted in state legislatures.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas issued an order in February ordering state agencies to investigate parents for child abuse if they administer specific medical procedures to their transgender children — an endeavour that was temporarily blocked last month by a federal court ruling.
Additionally, transgender kids competing in interscholastic competition in certain states, including Alabama, are not permitted to participate on teams that correspond to their gender identification.
In the course of debating the gender-affirming medical care bill in Alabama, lawmakers heard emotional testimony from at least one person who expressed regret for having transitioned, as well as from others who contended that lawmakers stood to punish doctors and nurses who they credited with providing them with care they considered essential and lifesaving.