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ADDED ON: 05/07/2022

Federal judge leaves open possibility Alabama transgender medicine law could go into effect

5/6/22 | Montgomery Advertiser

A federal judge Friday afternoon floated the possibility that state law making medication for transgender youth illegal could go into effect on Sunday without a ruling on a motion from families of transgender youth and physicians seeking to block the law. But U.S. District Judge Liles C. Burke said he and his staff would be “doing nothing else” until a ruling on an injunction came down. “I want a well-reasoned order that is right on the law,” he said. “I just ask that everyone be patient.” The statement came at the end of a two-day hearing that focused on the research and experience behind current treatments for gender dysphoria, and whether SB 184, which could put doctors in prison for up to 10 years for prescribing puberty blockers and hormones to transgender youth, had a legitimate basis or was a violation of equal protection and free speech guarantees under the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs, who include the parents of transgender children in Alabama from 12 to 17 and two physicians and a minister who work with them, testified throughout the hearing that access to the medications was critical for the physical and psychological health of youths who needed them. Families said in filings with the court that access to puberty blockers or hormones had led to major improvements in their well-being, and doctors and physicians repeatedly stressed that the medications were part of widely accepted standards of gender-affirming care. Jeffrey Doss, a Birmingham attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said in a closing statement Friday that the law’s blanket ban on transgender treatments was unconstitutional and unprecedented. “That’s an untested proposal,” he said. “The state proposes an experiment on a grand scale. All transgender youth in Alabama suffering from gender dysphoria should be guinea pigs.” Attorneys with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and their witnesses repeatedly questioned the effectiveness of the treatments and emphasized potential risks in the treatments, and focused particularly on potential for reduced fertility later in life. “In hitting the pause button, Alabama is halting an experiment on our kids,” said Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour in closing arguments. “Nothing in the Constitution requires Alabama to submit to unproven and sterilizing treatments.” Friday was largely devoted to state witnesses, after plaintiffs mostly finished with their witnesses on Thursday. James Cantor, a psychiatrist based out of Toronto, testified for the state that studies of transgender health outcomes had not done a sufficient job separating outcomes of psychotherapy and medication in assessing the benefits of one or the other. “The studies that have come out can’t unpack whether psychotherapy or pharmaceuticals making the difference,” said Cantor. On cross-examination from Melody Eagan, an attorney for the plaintiffs, Cantor acknowledged that he does not treat children or adolescents younger than 16 who suffer from gender dysphoria. Eagan also read off a report Cantor had cited as an example of his argument that showed the authors had studied the effects of psychotherapy and psychotherapy with medication together. Dr. Armand Antommaria, director of the ethics center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, said in earlier testimony Friday that observational studies, in which individuals received treatments and were studied for later effects, provided insight and allowed those who needed medical intervention for gender dysphoria to get it.

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