As Alabama’s trans youth care ban goes into effect, providers scramble to find answers

Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care went into effect May 8, and doctors in the state say they’re scrambling to figure out how to provide care for their young transgender patients.

SB 184, the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, states that anyone who provides gender-affirming care to someone under the age of 19 could be convicted of a felony and face up to 10 years in prison and a fine. of $15,000.

This type of care includes the provision of puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or gender-affirming physical surgeries.

Pediatric endocrinologist Hussein Abdul-Latif, who provides gender-affirming care to trans youth, told ABC News that before the ban took effect, he was rushing to see his patients and renew the prescriptions needed to continue their treatment while waiting.

He has already seen the fear this legislation has created as patients prepare for the end of health care.

“It was a scramble, trying to gather as many names as possible of the children we see in our clinic and making sure they have refills called before the law comes into 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.

In this file photo from March 30, 2021, a protester holds a sign reading “We love our trans youth” during a rally at the Alabama State House to draw attention to anti-transgender legislation introduced in Montgomery, in Alabama.

Julie Bennett/Getty Images, FILE

“The doctors and the patient and the family [typically] go through the different options available to them and find the best solution that suits this particular context,” said Abdul-Latif. “By having a law, it took all this dialogue and this deep and sincere discussion… now there is no discussion. Just obey the law or I’ll put you in jail. That’s not how medicine works, but that’s not how civil society reacts either.”

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’ve come to his house for.

He also said some patients fell through the cracks and did not receive their prescription refills on time.

Now Abdul-Latif says he and his fellow doctors who provide such care hope a federal judge will block the ban following a lawsuit by GLBTQ Legal Advocates. & Defenders (GLAD) and other civil rights organizations against Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other state officials seeking an injunction against the law. The judge is expected to render his decision by the end of the week.

“We’re trying to prepare for the worst-case scenario while hoping for the best-case scenario,” he said.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Tuesday.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Shay Shelnutt, called health care claims of the genre “child abuse.”

“We don’t want parents to abuse their children. We don’t want to make it an option because that’s what it is, it’s child abuse. It’s just to protect the children. “, Shelnutt told the state Senate in February. .

After signing the bill last month, Ivey said: “I believe very strongly that if the Good Lord made you a boy, you’re a boy, and if he made you a girl, you’re a girl.”

She continued, “We should especially protect our children from these life-altering drugs and radical surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in their lives. Instead, let’s all focus on helping them develop properly. to become the adults God intended them to be.”

The law has been rejected by doctors, including Abdullatif, who say it is riddled with misinformation about gender-affirming care.

PHOTO: In this April 7, 2022, file photo, Senator Shay Shelnutt is shown during a debate on transgender bills during the legislative session in the Senate chamber at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala.

In this April 7, 2022 file photo, Senator Shay Shelnutt is shown during a debate on transgender bills during the legislative session in the Senate chamber at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala.

Mickey Welsh/Announcer via USA Today Network, FILE

Legislation states that puberty blockers can lead to infertility or other health risks.

According to doctors, these potential side effects only present real risks after puberty and are not a risk for young people taking puberty blockers.

The bill also cites the higher rate of mental health problems among transgender people as a reason to ban care – although many medical organizations say poor mental health conditions are due to anti-trans discrimination and lack of gender-affirming care.

“I know I’m a girl and always have been,” a 15-year-old transgender girl said in a statement by LGBTQ legal advocacy group Lambda Legal. “The possibility of losing access to my medical care because of this law causes me deep anxiety. I wouldn’t feel like myself if this life-saving medicine were criminalized.

Several medical organizations, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the 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, developmentally appropriate health care provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space,” the American Academy said. of Pediatrics in a statement.

He continued, “These bills not only ignore those recommendations, they undermine them.”

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