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Committee moves transgender bill

By HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill moving to the Alabama Senate for a vote would make 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. 

Senate Bill 184, also known as the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, is sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, with co-sponsor Sen. Gerald Allen, R- Tuscaloosa. 

“This bill is strictly about protecting children,” Shelnutt told a Senate committee on Wednesday. “We want to make sure these surgeries and (puberty blocking) medications are never given to children. This bill prevents medical treatments on otherwise healthy minors.”

A similar bill was introduced in the 2021 legislative session and cleared the Senate but never received a vote in the House. 

The Senate Health Care Committee approved the bill Wednesday in a unanimous voice vote. Voice votes, instead of roll-call votes, are common with controversial bills.

During a public hearing Wednesday, opponents of the bill included two transgender Alabamians, the parent of a teen and a doctor.

“If this bill were to pass it would be setting a dangerous precedent of government interference with patient care and doctors’ decisions,” said Dr. Nola Ernest, a pediatrician in Enterprise.

Dr. Patrick Lappert, a plastic surgeon in Decatur, spoke in favor of the bill and said due to “an epidemic of diagnoses of transgender youth”, there is a greater chance for misdiagnoses.

Another part of the bill would require that school nurses, teachers, counselors and other administrative officials report to a minor’s guardians if the minor is experiencing feelings of gender dysphoria. 

Quentin Bell, co-founder of The Knights & Orchids Society, came forward during the public hearing with a request for the Alabama Senate.

“See transgender people, especially transgender youth, as members of your community instead of making them targets,” Bell said. “Trust parents and doctors to do their jobs.”

A similar bill, House Bill 266, is currently pending committee action in that chamber.

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