Transgender youth in Alabama can get gender-affirming health care, judge rules

A federal judge on Friday blocked part of an Alabama law that made it a felony to prescribe puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones to transgender minors.

US District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to block the state from enforcing the drug ban, which took effect May 8, while the court challenge continues.

The judge left in place other parts of the law that barred gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors, which doctors had testified are not performed on minors in Alabama. He also left in place a provision that requires counselors and other school officials to inform parents if a minor reveals that he believes she is transgender.

The Vulnerable Children Compassion and Protection Act made it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to prescribe or administer gender-affirming drugs to transgender minors to help them affirm their new gender identity.

Burke ruled that Alabama had not presented credible evidence to show that transition drugs are “experimental,” while “the uncontested evidence on record is that at least twenty-two major medical associations in the United States endorse transition drugs as well established, evidence-based”. treatments for gender dysphoria in minors”.

“Enacting the Act upholds and reaffirms the ‘enduring American tradition’ that parents, not states or federal courts, play the primary role in the upbringing and care of their children,” Burke wrote in the opinion.

Similar law blocked in Arkansas

The legislation was part of a wave of bills in Republican-controlled states regarding transgender minors, but it was the first to impose criminal penalties against doctors who provide the drugs. In Arkansas, a judge blocked a similar law before it went into effect.

The US Department of Justice and four families with transgender children challenged the Alabama law as discriminatory, an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights, and an intrusion into family medical decisions.

“This is a huge relief for transgender children and their families,” Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who founded a Birmingham medical team that treats children with gender dysphoria, said Friday night.

“The court’s decision recognizes that this is well-established care that has been endorsed by 22 major medical associations. This decision will ensure that transgender children in Alabama, and beyond, can continue to receive this well-known, evidence-based care that life jacket”.

Protesters in support of transgender rights march around the Alabama State House on March 2, 2021. (Jake Crandall//The Montgomery Advertiser/The Associated Press)

Representatives for Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall could not be immediately reached for comment Friday night.

The state attorney general’s office argued that use of the drugs is shaky science and therefore the state has a role in regulation to protect children. During a court hearing before Burke, state attorneys argued that European countries take a more conservative approach to drugs.

Alabama lawmakers, who passed the bill this spring, said drug decisions would have to wait until adulthood. “I firmly believe that if God made you a boy, you’re a boy, and if he made you a girl, you’re a girl,” Ivey said when he signed the legislation last month.

The judge said the Alabama evidence was unconvincing. He pointed to a psychologist who testified that most children who grow up without gender dysphoria had never provided care to a transgender child under the age of sixteen. The state’s other witness was a woman who testified that she regretted taking testosterone at age 19.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Endocrine Society endorse the treatments that clinics here and in other states provide to transgender youth. More than 20 medical and mental health organizations urged Burke to block the law.

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