Trans youth in Alabama were thrown a lifeline, however brief, when a Trump-appointed federal judge blocked part of a ban that would prevent them from accessing healthcare.
US District Judge Liles Burke issued an order late Friday night (13 May) that threw a spanner into a Republican plan to make it a felony for medical professionals to prescribe gender-affirming treatments.
The preliminary injunction stops Alabama from enforcing this part of the law, which went into effect 8 May.
Other parts of the bill, such as a ban on gender-affirming surgeries on minors (that don’t even happen) and forcing counsellors to out trans youth to their carers, remain, however.
The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act would make it a felony offence, punishable by up to a decade in prison, to prescribe trans young people puberty blockers or hormone therapies.
The cruelty of Alabama’s ban – where even parents, caregivers and educators who support trans teens face punishment – has shuddered fear through the state.
Some families of trans people with the means to do so are scrambling to move out altogether. Wary of how the ban would forcibly “de-transition” their children.
Judge rules that medical experts – not Republicans – are ‘best qualified’ on trans healthcare
But Burke, who was appointed by anti-LGBTQ+ president Donald Trump in 2018, said in his ruling that Alabama failed to provide “credible evidence to show that transitioning medications are ‘experimental’”.
“Parents, paediatricians and psychologists — not the state or this court — are best qualified to determine whether transitioning medications are in a child’s best interest on a case-by-case basis,” the US District Court for the Northern District of Alabama judge said.
Elements of the ban might be unconstitutional, he added, and curbing what healthcare options trans teens would have amounted to sex discrimination.
Supporters of the ban have said that trans youth face “irreversible damage from unproven, sterilizing and permanently scarring medical interventions pushed by ideological interest groups,” lawyers representing the state argued in court documents.
Burke disagreed. He stressed that top medical associations have enforced the need for gender-affirming healthcare as part of “well-established, evidence-based treatments for gender dysphoria in minors”.
The judge’s intervention comes amid a lawsuit lodged by top LGBTQ+ activist groups. Plaintiffs, who include four families of trans youth and two medical providers, say the act violates federal law and the Constitution.
The case, brought by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and backed by the US Department of Justice, adds that the ban will cause “immediate and irreparable” harm to the plaintiffs.
Medical groups, meanwhile, warn that if the ban goes ahead, it will undoubtedly lead to further rates of depression and suicide among trans youth. A study published this month overwhelmingly found that the majority of trans youth who social transition are still likely to identify as trans years later.
“We are talking about irreversible mental and physical damage to KIDS,” said one trans teen impacted by the ban to PinkNews. “They are going for the adults next.”