As Alabama's trans youth care ban goes into effect, providers scramble for answers
A federal judge is considering whether to block the ban.
Alabama's gender-affirming care ban went into effect on May 8, and physicians in the state say they’re scrambling to figure out how provide care for their young transgender patients.
S.B. 184, the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, states that anyone who provides gender-affirming care to anyone under 19 could be convicted of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
This type of care includes providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy or physical gender-affirming surgeries.
Pediatric endocrinologist Hussein Abdul-Latif, who provides gender-affirming care for trans youth, told ABC News that before the ban went into effect, he was rushing to see his patients and refill the necessary prescriptions to continue their treatment in the meantime.
He has already seen the fear this legislation has caused as patients prepare for an end to healthcare.
"It was a scramble, trying to gather as many names as possible of the kids that we see in our clinic and make sure that they do have refills called in before the law took effect," Abdul-Latif said.
Abdul-Latif says patients have attempted suicide due to discrimination, bullying and anti-trans sentiment. With this new law in place, he fears the worst.
"Physicians and the patient and the family [typically] walk through the different options that they have and come to the best solution that works for that particular context," Abdul-Latif said. "By having a law, it took all that dialogue and that discussion that's deep and that's heartfelt … now, there's no discussion. You just abide by the law or I will put you guys in jail. That is not how medicine is effective, but this is also not how civil society reacts."
He's had to cancel in-person appointments with trans patients who live too far away and would waste their time and money just to leave empty-handed, without the gender-affirming treatments they were traveling to him for.
He also said that some patients fell through the cracks and did not receive their prescription refills in time.
Now, Abdul-Latif says he and his fellow physicians that provide such care are left hoping that a federal judge will block the ban following a lawsuit filed by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and other civil rights organizations against Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and other state officials seeking an injunction against the law. The judge is expected to issue a decision by the end of the week.
"We're trying to prepare for the worst-case scenario while we're hoping for the best-case scenario," he said.
The governor's office did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment Tuesday.
The bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, has called gender-affirming health care, "child abuse."
"We don’t want parents to be abusing their children. We don’t want to make that an option because that’s what it is, it’s child abuse. This is just to protect children," Shelnutt said on the state Senate floor in February.
After signing the bill into law last month, Ivey said, "I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl."
She continued, "We should especially protect our children from these radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life. Instead, let us all focus on helping them to properly develop into the adults God intended them to be."
The law was panned by physicians, including Abdullatif, who say it is riddled with misinformation about gender-affirming care.
The legislation makes the claim that puberty blockers can cause infertility or other health risks.
According to physicians, these potential side effects only present real risks after puberty and are not a risk to youth taking puberty blockers.
The bill also cites the higher rate of mental health conditions among transgender people as a reason to ban care -- though many medical organizations say poor mental health conditions is due to anti-trans discrimination and lack of gender-affirming care.
“I know that I am a girl and I always have been,” said a 15-year-old transgender girl in a statement from LGBTQ legal advocacy group Lambda Legal. “The possibility of losing access to my medical care because of this law causes me deep anxiety. I would not feel like myself anymore if this lifesaving medication was criminalized.”
Several medical organizations, including American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Academy of Pediatrics, have spoken out against the bill.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space," the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement.
It continued, "These bills not only ignore these recommendations, they undermine them."
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