Updated Apr 29, 2022 - Health

DOJ challenges Alabama law that bans gender-affirming care for trans youth

Photo of a person holding a sign that says "We love our trans youth" with the trans flag colors outside the white Alabama statehouse

A demonstrator attends a rally at the Alabama statehouse to draw attention to anti-trans legislation on March 30, 2021, in Montgomery, Ala. Photo: Julie Bennett via Getty Images

The Justice Department filed a complaint Friday challenging a recently enacted Alabama law that criminalizes certain types of gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

Driving the news: The DOJ alleges that the law, one of dozens targeting trans youth across the country, "discriminates both on the basis of sex and on the basis of transgender status, each in violation of the Equal Protection Clause."

What they're saying: "The law discriminates against transgender minors by unjustifiably denying them access to certain forms of medically necessary care ... [that are] well recognized within the medical community as medically appropriate and necessary, while imposing no comparable limitation on medically necessary care by cisgender minors," the complaint alleges.

  • A doctor is allowed to prescribe testosterone for a cisgender adolescent boy if he is suffering delayed pubertal development, but "the law makes it a felony for the same doctor to prescribe the same testosterone to a transgender male youth to affirm his gender identity," per the complaint.
  • The DOJ also notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees gender-affirming care is "safe, effective, and medically necessary treatment for the health and well-being of some children and adolescents suffering from gender dysphoria."

Worth noting: Two physicians, along with the families of two transgender teenagers, have filed suit seeking to overturn the Alabama law.

The big picture: Medical associations including the American Medical Association have urged governors to oppose such measures, saying trans and nonbinary gender identities are "normal variations of human identity and expression."

  • Health experts and pediatricians have also expressed concern that the flood of bills criminalizing gender-affirming care could contribute to a new rash of mental health crises among trans kids.
  • A January poll found that over two-thirds of LGBTQ youth said recent debates about state laws targeting trans people have negatively impacted their mental health.

Go deeper: Culture war around care for transgender kids heats up

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