By MARY SELL and CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill to block the medical treatment of transgender youth in Alabama, one of the most controversial bills of the Legislature’s 2021 session, will be back in 2022.
Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, has pre-filed the bill, Senate Bill 5, for the 2022 session that begins in January. A copy of the 2022 version of the bill wasn’t accessible on the Legislature’s website Wednesday, but it is similar to this year’s bill, Shelnutt told ADN.
The 2021 bill, which cleared the Senate and never got a vote in the full House, would have made it a felony for a doctor to prescribe puberty-blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people 18 years old or younger.
“It’s to protect kids,” Shelnutt told Alabama Daily News. “Children aren’t capable of making those life-long decisions that can have irreversible consequences on their well being. That’s the simple reason for it.”
The bill led to opposition rallies outside the State House and impassioned pleas from parents inside who asked lawmakers not to take needed medical care away from trans youth.
While lawmakers will be back in Montgomery for at least one special session this year, Shelnutt said he doubts his bill could be dealt with in a condensed special session.
He said he pre-filed nearly seven months in advance because it’s a significant bill.
“Pre-file it and let them know it’s not going away and it’s very important,” Shelnutt said. “It lets them know this is something I’m going to be passionate about.”
Dillon Nettles, director of policy and advocacy for ACLU of Alabama, told ADN they were anticipating that the bill would be brought back up next year but hoped that the testimonies of families would help showcase how vital this health care is to trans youth.
“Instead, [Sen. Shelnutt] and others supporting this effort are using the power of the state to override the personal and professional expertise of an entire community to push a false agenda,” Nettles said. “We urge the Legislature to leave trans youth alone to decide their own treatment plans in consultation with their parents and medical providers, and we encourage them to focus on real solutions to help Alabama’s kids and families, like expanding healthcare access and improving education.”
Arkansas was the first state this year to enact a ban on gender confirming treatments for transgender youth. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit challenging the ban on behalf of four transgender youth and their families, as well as two doctors who provide the treatments. Last week the ACLU asked for a preliminary injunction against the new law, which is set to take effect on July 28, the Associated Press reported.