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Alabama would ban drug treatment for transgender kids

February 10, 2021 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers are considering bills that would make it a felony for doctors to treat transgender youth with hormonal therapy and puberty blockers to help their transition.

Alabama is one of at least eight states where conservative lawmakers are pushing such measures, arguing such decisions should wait until adulthood. The bill calls the treatments a “public health risk,” although experts testified Wednesday that the lengthy process is done cautiously and with proper oversight.

The bills introduced in the Alabama Senate and Alabama House of Representatives would prohibit the use of puberty-blocking drugs, hormonal therapy and surgery to treat transgender minors. Violators could face up to 10 years in prison.

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The Senate Health Committee advanced the bill Wednesday on an 11-2 vote. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday afternoon on the bill by Republican Rep. Wes Allen.

Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, are opposing the bill that they say will prevent doctors from providing the best medical care to transgender youth.

Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who has treated multiple transgender youths, told the Senate committee that genital surgery is never performed on children, and puberty blockers and hormonal therapy are used only after lengthy informed consent, mental health oversight and subspecialized medical care.

“There aren’t pediatricians traveling around Alabama just writing (prescriptions) for hormones just because they can. It’s a lengthy process,” Ladinsky said.

“This bill is about protecting vulnerable children. That’s all it’s about,” Republican Sen. Shay Shelnutt, the sponsor of the bill, told the committee. “These children are not of age and don’t have the mental capacity to make decisions that are being made for them, quite frankly, right now.”

Shelnutt said he wasn’t aware that the treatments were occurring in Alabama when he first filed the bill last year.

During a virtual news conference arranged by the Human Rights Campaign, 17-year-old Jeremiah Smith told reporters he is thankful for the access he had to medical treatment that helped his transition.

Smith said it’s a “terrible, terrible thought” to think that a lack of access to the proper resources would force a child to “exist in a body that doesn’t really feel like it belongs to you.”

“I really cannot be more grateful for the people in my life who made me becoming the teenage boy I am today happen.” Smith said.

Gerry Paige Smith of Trussville said that, before seeking medical care, her son as a young teen had been secretly starving himself to try to prevent himself from developing breasts and broad hips. She said denying medical support for vulnerable kids will cost lives.

“We are asking them to please let these proposals die before our children die instead,” she said.