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Right-Wing Judges Are Allowing Alabama Trans Health Care Ban to Go Into Effect

Doctors or parents who administer puberty blockers or other hormonal therapy could face up to 10 years in prison.

Jodi Womack holds a sign that reads "We Love Our Trans Youth" during a rally at the Alabama State House to draw attention to anti-transgender legislation, on March 30, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama.

LGBTQ+ rights advocates in Alabama said late Monday that they were “devastated” by a ruling handed down by three federal judges that, in the coming days, will permit a previously blocked law banning transgender healthcare for minors to go into effect — but pledged to continue fighting so transgender and nonbinary youths in the state can get the care they need.

Applying reasoning from the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, a panel of three judges on the right-wing 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the so-called Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act can go into effect, making it a felony to prescribe or administer puberty blockers or other hormonal therapy to people under the age of 19 who suffer from gender dysphoria.

Doctors or parents who administer the treatment could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The decision overturned an earlier ruling by a district court, which had set a trial date for next April to determine whether the law should be permanently blocked.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Human Rights Campaign, which have challenged the law, said transgender young people across Alabama will now be “vulnerable to what the district court… found to be irreparable harm as a result of losing the medical care they have been receiving and that has enabled them to thrive.”

“Parents, not the government, are best situated to make these medical decisions for their children,” the groups said. “These laws are a shocking example of government overreach and a jarring intrusion into private family decisions. This case is far from over, and we will continue to aggressively seek legal protection for these families.”

The judges claimed in their ruling that there is “uncertainty regarding benefits,” despite the fact that the use of puberty blockers and hormonal treatments for minors is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical organizations. Medical experts note that gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youths is correlated with a sharp reduction in the risk of suicidal ideation and depression.

The Campaign for Southern Equality said the court’s reversal of the injunction was “heartbreaking” for families in Alabama.

At The New Republic, Tori Otten noted that the ruling, handed down by judges who were all appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump, illustrates “the appalling legal consequences” of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe, in which the high court’s right-wing majority said abortion rights are not “deeply rooted in history and tradition” in the United States.

“Essentially, because modern medicine has progressed, people do not have the right to bodily autonomy,” wrote Otten. “It’s also unclear how far back something has to go to be considered ‘history.’ Puberty blockers were first used in the 1980s, which apparently is not far back enough for gender-affirming care to be considered tradition. But abortion was first recorded in 1550 BCE, and it would seem that doesn’t count either.”

Transgender rights advocate Erin Reed pointed out that while the ruling only pertains to a law that bans care for those under age 19, the Trump-appointed judges suggested that care for adults should also be considered unconstitutional because it is also not “deeply rooted” in history.

“This is a five-alarm fire,” said Reed.

The groups that sued over the law said they are confident that the legal setback is “only a temporary one.”

“Every federal district court that has heard the evidence presented in these cases has come to the same conclusion: These medical treatments are safe, effective, and lifesaving for some youth, and there is no legitimate reason to ban them,” the groups said. “We believe that at the end of the day, our nation’s courts will protect these vulnerable youth and block these harmful laws, which serve no purpose other than to prevent parents from obtaining the medical care their children need.”

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