Court hears arguments over Alabama’s ban on treatment of trans youth
The arguments in Alabama come three months after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hold a similar Arkansas law on hold.
The bans have become a flashpoint as Republican-controlled legislatures have advanced bills not only to block medical treatment, but also to ban transgender children from using school bathrooms or playing on sports teams that do not match their sex at birth.
Jeff Doss, an attorney representing five parents and a pediatrician who challenged the law, urged the court to keep the ban pending. He said the law was discriminatory and that Alabama had taken the “unprecedented” step of trying to criminalize the accepted standard of care for a medical condition.
“If parental freedom means anything, it means a parent, not the state, should decide whether their child receives life-saving medical intervention, according to the standard of care,” Doss said.
Doss said after court that “it should be scary for everyone” that the state is trying to tell parents “we know best and we’re the ones who are going to make that decision for you parents.”
Edmund LaCour, Solicitor General of Alabama, argued that the state has the power to regulate medical treatments it deems risky. He disputed arguments that the law discriminates against transgender people because the drugs are still available to everyone, but not “to affect a cosmetic sex change”.
“The law does not prohibit any form of therapy. He doesn’t require men to go through him or girls to wear dresses. All it does is target risky treatments,” LaCour said.
LaCour at one point asked the judges to imagine if the children wanted to use skin grafts, a treatment for severe burns, to change their race. It would just be too risky, he argued.
Several medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, oppose the ban. The US Department of Justice also opposed the ban, calling it unconstitutional. Fifteen states have filed briefs supporting Alabama’s efforts to ban the treatments.
The appeals judges did not say when they will rule.
U.S. Circuit Judge Andrew Brasher, who served as solicitor general for Alabama before being named a federal judge, asked both sides whether the law amounted to sex discrimination and whether the state had other regulatory options, short of an outright ban, if he was concerned about possible drug overuse.
Arkansas was the first state to enact such a treatment ban. Last year, a federal judge blocked the Arkansas law from taking effect and the appeals court upheld the decision. A lawsuit began last month as part of the lawsuit to permanently overturn the ban.
Alabama’s law, dubbed the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, went further by imposing criminal penalties on people who supply the drugs.
U.S. District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction in May to stop Alabama from enforcing the drug ban. Burke did not block part of the law banning sex-modification surgeries for minors, which doctors say are not performed in Alabama.
It also left in place a provision that requires counselors and other school officials to notify parents if a minor reveals they think they are transgender.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey at the time called Burke’s decision blocking the drug ban a “temporary legal roadblock.”
Trial in the ongoing litigation is scheduled for next year, the lawyers said.