A bill that would criminalize the prescription and administration of puberty-blocking medications and sex-change surgeries to Alabama minors passed a House committee on Wednesday.
The House Judiciary Committee gave HB266, sponsored for the third consecutive year by Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, a favorable report after about an hour of debate between committee members.
Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, called the bill “the toughest bill (the House Judiciary Committee) has ever had in my 12 years.”
“I locked my office for three hours today, I didn’t go to lunch, because I wanted to go through the many letters I have gotten from both sides,” Farley said. “It broke my heart on both sides. We’ve got not one, but several medical doctors telling me on one side why this must be stopped, and medical doctors on the other side why this must not be stopped. I have mommas and daddies talking about how this bill must be passed. Others are telling me the horrors they’ve gone through as to why this should go forward.”
Farley ultimately voted in favor of the bill.
Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, told the committee the bill is clearly political.
“Once upon a time, I was a political animal— but I have just about lost my appetite for it, that’s why I’m leaving the Legislature,” Ball said. “The legislative findings (in this bill) almost immediately tells me it is making a statement … There is a political agenda movement from the left to empower various … sexual diversity — whatever the correct terminology is. I’m not good at political correctness cause I’m an old fogey.
“I joined the Republican Party many years ago. I believe in bottom-up governance and that means the most basic governmental unit is the family. The higher up you make decisions, the less responsive it is to the people it affects. What happens though is you get this gay rights political movement that has grown. It creates an equal and opposite reaction, the right wing has had a reaction, I understand why, they don’t understand it any better than I do. We don’t understand something, so we react against it. … What happens a lot of times is innocent victims get caught in the middle. Quite frankly, I’m not sure that this legislation gets us where we need to be legally … I don’t think this bill is going to have the desired effect. I wish there was an answer to help this problem.”
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, criticized the bill on several fronts, and introduced an amendment to remove legislative findings. England has signaled his disagreement with including legislative findings in any bills.
Legislative findings in the bill include that “some in the medical community are aggressively pushing for interventions on minors that medically alter the child’s hormonal balance and remove healthy external and internal sex organs …”
“We really shouldn’t be putting these sorts of declarations in legislation,” England said. “Some of these are really just political statements. There’s nothing substantive in the findings. As Rep. Ball pointed out, it’s just political statement. You can make those on your own time, I don’t want to have a part of it.”
The amendment was denied by voice vote.
England pressed Allen on whether prescribing the medications equates to child abuse.
“In my opinion, administering these powerful medications to minors whose minds are not made up, it is not good for these children,” Allen said. “Yeah, I’d consider it child abuse.”
England then asked whether Allen would consider the parents seeking this treatment for their children would also be guilty of child abuse.
“It’s not lost on me how parents are making tough decisions,” Allen said. “For this situation, it is not good to give these medications to these children. I consider it abuse … Would it be child abuse if I gave my child alcohol or any number of drugs?”
“How big does government have to be to substitute the parent’s judgment for our own?” England asked. He then listed other examples where the Legislature could try to step on parents’ judgment including somebody who doesn’t want their children to be vaccinated or hav a life-saving surgery.
England also challenged how the law would be applied practically, saying it could lead to teachers, parents or the children themselves having to testify against doctors who are providing treatment.
Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, challenged the notion and said that a district attorney could subpoena a pharmacist for the proof that the doctor prescribed the medication to a minor.
An equal mix of citizens spoke out in favor and against the bill last week, including medical professionals that disagreed on the correct treatment for minors experiencing gender dysphoria. Parents of two separate transgender teens made pleas before the committee not to pass the bill, while a woman who formerly spent a year as a transgender man shared her experiences and asked the committee to approve the bill.
About 20 people held signs and waved transgender flags outside the statehouse Wednesday in opposition to the bill.
The committee voted to give the bill favorable report, and did the same with the Senate version of the bill, which has already passed in the upper chamber. Both bills now go to the full House for consideration, and if passed would go to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk to become law.