New law in Alabama threatens health care for trans youth

Dr. Hussein Abdul-Latif spent the last week keying in prescriptions for his young transgender patients, to ensure they had access to their medications for a few months before Alabama outlawed prescribing.

He also answered questions from anxious patients and their parents: What will happen to me if I suddenly have to stop taking testosterone? Do we have to leave the state to get medical care?

A new state law went into effect on Sunday that makes it a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to trans people under the age of 19.

At the moment, a judge has not ruled on the request to prevent the state from applying the law.

The move is part of a wave of legislation in Republican-controlled states targeting LGBTQ youth.

Bills have also been introduced to limit discussions of gender and sexual identity issues in younger grades or to ban children from using school toilets or playing on sports teams that do not match their gender. birth.

Abdul-Latif, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-founder of a clinic in Birmingham to treat children with gender dysphoria, said he is highly discouraged by the Alabama law.

He noted that it was hard enough for families in this very conservative state to accept their children’s situation. They had already faced social stigma and “the difficult decision to leave their church family or be considered less worthy,” he said.

However, little by little, she explained, trans children became more visible and there was a greater openness in the state for them to publicly declare their identity.

“They always existed, but they often didn’t feel strong enough to show themselves as they are, or show themselves to their doctors,” he said. “And now that they do, we respond to them with legal measures.”

Abdul-Latif points out that both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Society for Pediatric Endocrinology endorse the treatments that clinics in this and other states provide to transgender youth.

In contrast, “the state is not only saying that I am a criminal for prescribing these drugs, but it is also claiming that my organization of thousands of doctors, pediatricians and pediatric endocrinologists are perhaps partners in this criminal enterprise,” he said.

In Alabama, four families with trans children have filed a lawsuit to challenge the new state law as unconstitutional.

The federal Department of Justice has joined the lawsuit.

A federal judge heard evidence on a request to prevent the state from enforcing the statute while legal action proceeds.

More than 20 medical and mental health organizations, including the AAP, have also asked the judge to block the law. A decision is expected this week.

The state of Alabama maintains that the law tries to protect children. “Science and common sense are on Alabama’s side. We will win this fight to protect our children,” State Attorney General Steve Marshall said last week.

Now that the law has gone into effect, families are wondering if they will have to move out of state, and doctors are worried about what will become of their patients.

Abdul-Latif, originally from Jordan, and Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician, moved to Alabama years ago to work as professors and physicians at the University of Alabama, Birmingham campus.

In 2015, seeing more families with children who identify as trans and seeking help for gender-related issues, they decided to found a clinic to treat children with gender dysphoria. They currently treat more than 150 trans or gender diverse youth.

Ladinsky, who testified as a witness in the lawsuit last week, told The Associated Press he felt like he was “walking through a nightmare” when the Alabama legislature passed the ban.

He claims the measure is an unprecedented legislative overreach on parental decisions and the practice of medicine.

“This is the first time I remember, at least for pediatricians, being literally forced to choose between the Hippocratic Oath we took to ‘do no harm’ and never abandon our patients or the possibility of a felony conviction. serious,” he said.

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New law in Alabama threatens health care for trans youth

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