The Alabama House Health Committee approved a bill that would make it a felony crime to prescribe puberty-blocking medications for minors, moving the bill to the full House for final approval.
Sen. Shay Shelnut, R-Trussville, spoke to the committee on the bill, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy.
“This bill aims to protect vulnerable children from being faced with a lifelong decision that can cause much more harm later on,” Shelnut said prior to the vote.
Committee member Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, said he was concerned over how the bill might impact minor suicides.
Lovvorn, who is a firefighter, said he has been on the scene of a teen suicide in which it was later determined the teen was “dealing with gender dysphoria and was seeking help and was not getting the help for it and sought another option.”
Lovvorn said he’s spoken to a counselor at a major hospital who told him they see a minor dealing with some form of gender dysphoria once a week, but that in the 15 years the person has been practicing they’d only seen the use of hormone-blocking medications in one case.
“My concern is we’re taking more tools out of responsible parents’ toolkit to, one, keep their child prospering, and from my standpoint, from my career, in some ways, keeping them alive.”
Lovvorn said the medications can be used to slow down the process so that the minor and parents can have conversations with doctors “to help them figure out what’s going on in their life.”
“And if the kid takes their life, there’s no more connecting. There’s no more figuring out,” Lovvorn said.
Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, also expressed concern over the bill and said that he has worked with transgender youth and asked whether Shelnut has, to which Shelnut said that he has not.
“Because there seems to be a bit of a solution in search of a problem here,” Rafferty said, then referred to a portion of the bill that would ban transgender surgery on minors before noting such surgeries aren’t performed on minors in Alabama.
“Are you aware that this is not part of any of the standards of care for the treatment of minors and the gender-affirming model, that is standards of care by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Medicine, the American Psychological Society and the Pediatric Endocrinology Society. Are you aware of that?” Rafferty asked Shelnut.
Shelnut said that he is aware such surgeries aren’t being done in Alabama, but that “the drugs are definitely being administered, and we’re already seeing negative effects.”
Rafferty said he was concerned that the bill puts legislators in between parents, their children and the physicians who treat them. Shelnut said minors are not capable of making such decisions, and suggested parents may be making decisions for their children based upon politics.
“This is just something that a child, mentally, is not capable of,” Shelnut said. “We can all agree that a 13, 14-year-old is not capable of making a decision, just because a parent that might have a political agenda or some other thing.”
Prior to passing the bill, committee members approved an amendment that removed a felony penalty for pharmacists who fill a prescription for puberty-blocking drugs or hormones for minors.
Committee members approved a separate amendment by Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, clarifying that the bill couldn’t prevent psychologists and mental health professionals from practicing what they’ve been trained to practice.
The Alabama Senate on March 3 approved the Senate’s version of the bill, in a 23-4 vote.