MONTGOMERY — 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 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.
“The primary concern here is the health and well-being of Alabama’s children,” said Shelnutt. “We must protect vulnerable minors who do not have the mental capacity to make life-altering decisions of this caliber. The efficacy and effects of these particular surgeries and methods of treatment are not well-sustained by medical evidence, and actions of this severity cannot be undone.
Among Shenutt’s chief concerns is the permanent nature of the treatment.
“I believe it is our responsibility as lawmakers to do all we can to keep our children out of harm’s way,” Shelnutt said. “Protecting minors from these powerful drugs and consequential procedures will help ensure they do not feel responsible to make a decision they may wish to later undo, ultimately causing more harm.”
Some 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.
Shelnutt responded by saying that the state also bans minors from smoking and drinking.
During debate, Shelnutt 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.
Kim Chandler of the Associated Press contributed to this story.