On Thursday, April 7, 2022, the legislature of Alabama, in which the Republican party has a majority, approved a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to prescribe hormone blockers or hormone replacement therapy to transgender children. The sentence for this class C felony would be up to 10 years in prison.
The bill passed 66 to 28, with only one Democrat voting for, and three Republicans opposing it.
This irresponsible and uninformed piece of legislation follows in the footsteps of a similar Arkansas bill that passed last year but was fortunately blocked by a federal court. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and the Transgender Law Center are planning to sue the state of Alabama over the bill, which Governor Kay Ivey has now ratified. There is an argument to be made that laws of this nature violate the Constitution’s fourteenth amendment, as stated by the United State Department of Justice.
The bill’s Republican sponsors insist that their aim is to protect children from making decisions that they do not fully comprehend, even though the process of providing puberty blockers to transgender children is already complex and arduous, requiring a consensus between parents and medical professionals. The bill would also prohibit teachers and counselors from encouraging transgender students to keep their identities secret from their parents and mandate that they provide parents with the information, should a child come to them. This could potentially put children in danger of being abused, kicked out of their homes, or suffering mental health crises if the parents react negatively to this information. There is extensive evidence to suggest that LGBTQ+ youth already experience mental illness at a higher rate than their peers, especially if they do not find acceptance at home. If they do not feel safe expressing themselves to trusted adults at their schools, it seems likely that this rate will increase further.
Many Democratic legislators in the Alabama house have expressed outrage at the contents of the bill for its blatant transphobia and invasive attacks on the personal choices of parents. In criminalizing one of the most effective treatments for gender dysphoria, the bill implicitly condemns the choice of parents who support their transgender children.
While this bill is by no means unique, it poses a serious threat to LGBTQ+ rights in Alabama and further marginalizes a group of people– transgender youth– who have very little recourse under the law to advocate for themselves. Allowing this state to punish medical professionals for providing the appropriate treatment to transgender minors sets a dangerous precedent and further erodes the already precarious protections provided to transgender individuals in the United States.