Metro Weekly

Alabama to Enforce Trans Health Care Ban

An appeals court is allowing Alabama to prosecute and imprison doctors who prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to trans youth.

Illustration: Todd Franson

A federal appeals court will allow the state of Alabama to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for minors while a lawsuit challenging the ban works its way through the courts.

In a two-page order released on Thursday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a preliminary injunction issued by a lower court judge in 2022 that blocked the state from enforcing the ban. 

When issuing the 2022 injunction, U.S. District Judge Liles Burke, of the Northern District of Alabama, found that the state had produced no credible evidence that gender-affirming treatments like puberty blockers and hormones are “experimental” or should be delayed until adulthood. 

The 11th Circuit previously reversed that decision in August, finding that states have “a compelling interest” in preventing minors from accessing treatments that they may one day regret undergoing.

They also argued that Burke had applied the wrong legal standard when deciding to block the law. On January 11, the appeals court formally lifted the injunction. 

The lawyers for the plaintiffs challenging the ban previously requested that all the judges on the 11th Circuit review the appeals court’s reversal of Burke’s decision. That request for a rehearing is pending.

Now that they are able to enforce the law, Alabama officials may choose to prosecute any physicians who prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to transgender individuals under 19.

Even though 18-year-olds are not considered minors legally, the law restricts their ability to pursue gender-affirming treatments. Doctors convicted of violating the law can be jailed for up to a decade in prison.

The plaintiffs challenging the law, which includes four families with transgender children, argue that the ban is discriminatory, violates their children’s right to equal protection and free speech, and infringes upon the rights of parents to make decisions regarding the well-being of their children.

That lawsuit remains ongoing, and is expected to be argued before Burke in August 2024. 

Meanwhile, the ban will continue to be enforced until the courts determine — if ever — that the law is unconstitutional.

So far, 23 states have enacted laws restricting or completely banning transition-related procedures or treatments for transgender minors.

Several of those laws have been blocked by courts, but decisions by the conservative 6th and 11th Court of Appeals have reversed lower court decisions to allow them to take effect or be enforced.

Only one state ban, in Arkansas, has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, praised lifting the injunction as “a significant victory for our country, for children, and for common sense,” reports NBC News.

The lawyers representing the plaintiffs argued that the law will cause significant harm to trans-identifying children and parents in Alabama.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Human Rights Campaign issued a joint statement.

“We will continue to challenge this unlawful ban and to support parents and their kids in pushing back against the dangerous reality of being denied access to necessary, best-practice medical care,” the statement read.

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