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Alabama families sue over ban on transgender health care for minors  

The parents of two transgender children argue Alabama’s Senate Bill 184 violates their rights under the Affordable Care Act and the U.S. Constitution.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (CN) — Three days after Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill criminalizing the act of providing gender-affirming care to minors, two families with transgender children and their physicians filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the ban from taking effect next month.

The families – who are identified as Robert Roe and his 13-year-old daughter Mary Roe and Jane Doe and her 17-year-old son John Doe – say in Monday's complaint that the new restrictions “lack a rational foundation and serve no legitimate purpose.”

Senate Bill 184, also known as the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, prohibits doctors from prescribing hormone blockers or hormone treatments or performing gender-affirming surgeries to anyone under the age of 18 years old. Any person who is found to have engaged in or allowed for such care to be administered faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. 

Governor Ivey said in a statement after signing the bill into law on Friday that SB 184, which is set to take effect May 8, is aimed at protecting children "from radical, life-altering drugs and surgeries when they are at such a vulnerable stage in life.”

But the families argue in their lawsuit that SB 184 violates Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits the denial of health care based on race, gender, sex, disability, sexual orientation and or gender identity. Additionally, they claim the law infringes upon their equal protection and due process rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Throughout the 36-page complaint filed in Montgomery federal court, the families cite medical research about gender-affirming care and how rates of suicidal ideation rise in transgender youth without it. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have said laws banning minors from receiving gender-affirming care are concerning and would harm the mental health of transgender youth. 

“The transgender plaintiffs are currently receiving medical care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, for gender dysphoria,” the complaint states. “If allowed to take effect, the Act will interrupt these medically necessary treatments, prevent them from obtaining future medically necessary treatments for gender dysphoria, and cause them to experience irreparable physical and psychological harm."

The plaintiffs in the case also include pediatrician Dr. Morissa Ladinsky and pediatric endocrinologist Dr .Hussein Abdul-Latif, who both provide care to transgender children in Alabama.

Ladinsky has been a vocal opponent of SB 184. In an opinion article published in the Alabama Political Reporter, the doctor asked if the 1% of transgender youth receiving gender-affirming care in the state truly pose a threat to public safety.

“When culture wedge issues become political wedge legislation, nobody wins,” Ladinsky wrote. “If the Alabama Legislature holds dear the conservative bedrock of limited government and individual rights, I implore them to turn their backs on such bills.”

In addition to SB 184, Ivey also signed into law last week House Bill 322, which mandates transgender school children must use restrooms that match their sex assigned at birth and prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Alabama is not alone in its endeavor to restrict access to gender-affirming care. In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the state Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of transgender children for child abuse, after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion that described hormone therapies and surgeries as child abuse. Both Republicans are up for reelection this fall, with Paxton still locked in a heated runoff election.

A Texas judge has blocked the state from carrying out such investigations, but lawmakers in the Lone Star State seem poised to make this a key issue when they return to Austin for the 2023 legislative session. 

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