Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday advanced legislation that would make it a crime for doctors to give transgender minors puberty-blockers, hormones or surgeries to help affirm their gender identity.
The bill is one of several such measures being proposed in statehouses across the country.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the Senate-passed legislation, which now moves to the full Alabama House of Representatives. The committee also approved an identical House version of the bill. The bills would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people 18 years old or younger.
“Adults are free to do what they want to do, but this is to protect children,” said Rep. Wes Allen, the Republican sponsor of the bill.
Allen argued that children are not mature enough to make a decision about the medications and likened it to how lawmakers have passed legislation to protect children from alcohol, smoking and vaping.
“It is not good to give these medications to these children, and I consider it to where it would be abuse to give these long-term drugs to these children,” he said.
Opponents said lawmakers are inserting themselves into decisions that belong to families and doctors.
“We’re not supposed to be here substituting our judgment for the person that’s closest to that child, and I personally believe that this legislation doesn’t protect children, it endangers them, and it also endangers their families,” said Rep. Chris England, a Democratic representative from Tuscaloosa.
A federal judge in July temporarily blocked a similar Arkansas law that would ban gender-confirming treatments for transgender youth. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued that state over its treatment ban on behalf of four transgender youths and their families, as well as two doctors who provide gender-confirming treatments.
The Alabama legislation is one of several bills moving in statehouses across the country that would affect transgender individuals.
Parents and a transgender teen spoke against the bill in earlier public hearings.
With the committee’s nod, the Alabama legislation is nearing final approval. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, condemned the committee’s action.
“Today, Alabama has chosen, against the best advice of leading doctors across the country, to restrict and criminalize critically important care that transgender youth need desperately. This decision greatly restricts the rights of parents and medical providers to make health care decisions on a case-by-case basis, with the goal of reducing the physical and emotional distress experienced by many transgender children,” Carmarion Anderson-Harvey, Alabama director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.