By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Transgender youth in Alabama would not be able to be treated with puberty-blockers, hormone treatment or surgery under a bill approved Tuesday by the Alabama Senate, as parents and trans youth rallied outside the Statehouse in opposition.
Senators voted 23-4 to approve the measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Shay Shelnutt of Trussville. The bill now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives where a committee has approved a nearly identical bill. The bills would make it a felony to use puberty-blocking drugs, hormonal therapy and surgery to treat transgender minors. Violators could face up to 10 years in prison.
“Children aren’t mature enough to make these decisions on surgeries and drugs. The whole point is to protect kids,” Shelnutt said.
Alabama is one of at least eight states where conservative lawmakers are pushing such measures, arguing such decisions should wait until adulthood. Parents, trans youth and medical experts opposed to the bill argued it is dangerous and lawmakers don’t understand that it is a lengthy process to obtain hormonal treatment.
“This bill masquerades under a save the children umbrella, but the truth is that children who are not gender-conforming, this won’t save them — this is going to endanger them,” said Gerry Paige Smith, the parent of a transgender son, said in a telephone interview.
She said her 17-year-old son receives a miniscule amount of testosterone, but that was the “last step” that came only after years of consultation with medical professionals.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who has treated multiple transgender youths, told a Senate committee earlier 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.
Other parents and advocates rallied outside the statehouse, urging lawmakers to stop the bill.
Sen. Billy Beasley, a pharmacist, said he could be imprisoned for filling a prescription for puberty blockers or hormones. “This bill needs to go away,” Beasley said.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, a Democratic senator from Greensboro, said lawmakers are inserting themselves into medical care decisions.
“We are infringing on the ability of families to make that decision,” Singleton said.
Shelnutt responded by saying that the state also bans minors from smoking and drinking.
During debate Shelnutt acknowledged that he has never spoken to a transgender youth and said he did not know that such treatments were being done in Alabama when he first introduced the bill last year.
Shelnutt opposed an attempt by Republican Sen. Tom Whatley, of Auburn, to add an amendment to the bill that made clear that counseling could continue. Shelnutt said he wants children to get counseling but not any that confirms a gender identity that conflicts with birth.
“We don’t want them affirming that, ‘Hey yeah, you’re right, you should be a boy if you are a born a female,'” Shelnutt said.