MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday blocked part of an Alabama law that makes it a felony to prescribe gender-affirming puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.
U.S. District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the medication ban, which took effect May 8, while a court challenge goes forward. The judge left in place other parts of the law that banned gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors and requires counselors, teachers and other school officials to tell parents if a minor discloses that they think they are transgender.
The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act made it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, to prescribe or administer gender-affirming medication to transgender minors to help affirm their new gender identity.
Burke ruled that Alabama had produced no credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are “experimental” while, “the uncontradicted record evidence is that at least twenty-two major medical associations in the United States endorse transitioning medications as well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors.”
“Enjoining the Act upholds and reaffirms the ‘enduring American tradition’ that parents—not the states or federal courts—play the primary role in nurturing and caring for their children,” Burke wrote in the opinion.
The legislation was part of a wave of bills in Republican-controlled states regarding transgender minors, but it is the first to levy criminal penalties against the doctors who provide the medications. In Arkansas, a judge blocked a similar law before it took effect.
The U.S. Department of Justice and four families with transgender children challenged the Alabama law as discriminatory, an unconstitutional violation of equal protection and free speech rights and an intrusion into family medical decisions.
The state attorney general’s office insists the law is constitutional and says it’s aimed at protecting children. “The science and common sense are on Alabama’s side. We will win this fight to protect our children,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said recently.
Alabama lawmakers, who approved the bill this spring, said decisions on the medications should wait until adulthood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Endocrine Society both endorse the treatments that clinics here and in other states are providing for transgender youth. More than 20 medical and mental health organizations urged Burke to block the law. “Gender-affirming medical care is the well-recognized, accepted standard of care for adolescents at risk of or suffering from gender dysphoria,” an attorney wrote in the motion.
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician who founded a Birmingham medical team that treats children with gender dysphoria, testified last week that her clinic is one of about 55 across the country.