New Alabama law could jail doctors for transgender treatments

May 9, 2022, 6:44 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 11:01 am
Dr. Hussein D. Abdul-Latif, left, and Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, two University of Alabama at Birmingham professors who treat patients with gender issues, speak during an interview in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
(AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Dr. Hussein Abdul-Latif spent the last week typing out prescription refills for his young transgender patients, trying to make sure they had access to their medications for a few months before Alabama made it illegal for him to prescribe them.

He also answered questions from anxious patients and their parents: What will happen to me if I suddenly have to stop taking testosterone? Should we go out of state for care?

A new state law that took effect Sunday makes it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for doctors to prescribe puberty blockers and hormones to trans people under age 19. A judge has not yet ruled on a request to block the state from enforcing the law.

The measure is part of a wave of legislation in Republican-controlled states focused on LGBTQ youth. Bills have been introduced to limit discussion of gender and sexual identity issues in younger grades or to prohibit kids from using school restrooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with their sex at birth.

Abdul-Latif, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-founder of a clinic in Birmingham to treat children with gender dysphoria, said he is very discouraged by the Alabama law. He said it was already hard enough for families in this very conservative state to come to terms themselves with their children’s situations. They had already faced the social stigma and “the difficult decision of leaving their church family or being viewed less worthy,” he said.

But gradually, he said, trans kids became more visible and there was a greater openness in the state for them to come out.

“They always existed, but they often did not have the feeling of empowerment to come out, or come out to their physicians,” he said. “And now that they are, we’re hitting them back with legal action.”

Abdul-Latif notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Endocrine Society both endorse the treatments that clinics here and in other states are providing for transgender youth.

In contrast, “The state is not only saying I am criminal for prescribing those medications, but it’s saying that my organization of thousands of physicians, pediatricians and pediatric endocrinologists are maybe partners in that criminal enterprise,” he said.

Four Alabama families with transgender children have filed a lawsuit challenging the new state law as unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Justice has joined the suit. A federal judge heard evidence this week on a request to block the state from enforcing the statute while the legal challenge goes forward. More than 20 medical and mental health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have also urged the judge to block the law. A decision is expected sometime this week.

Alabama maintains the law is about protecting children. “The science and common sense are on Alabama’s side. We will win this fight to protect our children,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said last week.

Now that the law is in effect, families are wondering if they will have to move out of state and doctors are worried about what will become of their patients.

Abdul-Latif, who is originally from Jordan, and pediatrician Dr. Morissa Ladinsky both moved to Alabama years ago to work as instructors and physicians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2015, after seeing more families with kids identifying as trans and seeking help for gender-related issues, they decided to found a clinic to treat children with gender dysphoria. They now treat more than 150 young people who are transgender or gender diverse.

Ladinsky, who testified last week as a witness in the lawsuit, told The Associated Press that she felt like she was “walking in a nightmare” when the Alabama Legislature approved the ban. She says the measure is an unprecedented legislative overreach into the decisions of parents and the practice of medicine.

“This is the first time ever that I can remember, at least for pediatricians, that we are literally forced to choose between the Hippocratic Oath we took to ‘do no harm’ and never abandon our patients versus the facing of a potential felony conviction,” she said.

Ladinsky quickly agreed to co-found the gender clinic in Birmingham when Abdul-Latif approached her about it. She had moved to the city from a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, that had a pediatric gender health team, and was familiar with the treatments.

But that wasn’t all. She also had taken a route to work each morning that brought her by the spot where Ohio transgender teen Leelah Alcorn had stepped in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer in 2014. Leelah left a suicide note that read, “My death needs to mean something. … Fix society. Please.”

Some of the children Abdul-Latif and Ladinsky have treated in the Birmingham clinic came to them after suicide attempts, the doctors said. One patient tried to kill themselves five times, he said. A 2021 survey by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth, found that 52% of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 reported attempting suicide.

“In our minds, there is no doubt they saved my daughter’s life,” said David Fuller, whose daughter was among the first patients treated in Birmingham.
Jessica Fuller, now 22, was 16 when she first came to the clinic after telling her father that she was trans. “The dysphoria was awful and I was thinking about suicide more often than I wish to talk about,” Fuller wrote in an email.

She called the new Alabama law “a waste of time and money.”

“It’s terrifying not just for the kids but the doctors and nurses just trying to help kids not kill themselves,” she wrote. “Are you gonna arrest him for something so harmless?”

Abdul-Latif said he understands that some people may be skeptical over the medical treatments for transgender kids.

“But to make it into a law and make it into a felony — that is way beyond skepticism,” he said, adding that the law “basically closes … a very important dialogue in the country about what is better and what is best for kids with gender dysphoria.”

“I welcome an argument. I welcome skeptical voices. I do not welcome imposing voices that leave no discussion,” he said.

David Fuller, a police sergeant in the city of Gadsden, said he’s angry that the law could lead to officers putting handcuffs on the people he calls heroes and credits with saving his child.

“I’m a police officer and I know what a crime is,” Fuller said. “I know what a criminal is. These people are not criminals. It’s political crap.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

Law enforcement officers aim their weapons at a home during a standoff in Grants Pass, Ore., on Tue...
Associated Press

Oregon kidnapping suspect dies of self-inflicted gunshot

The suspect in a violent kidnapping in Oregon has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
20 hours ago
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after a Federal Open M...
Christopher Rugaber, AP Economics Writer

Fed lifts rate by quarter-point and signals more hikes ahead

The Federal Reserve extended its fight against high inflation Wednesday by raising its key interest rate by a quarter-point, its eighth hike since March.
20 hours ago
Six-year-old Mason Stonehouse was playing on his dad’s phone before bedtime and spent about $1,00...

Michigan six-year-old orders $1,000 worth of food on Grubhub

A six-year-old as playing on his dad's phone before bedtime and spent about $1,000 on Grubhub orders.
20 hours ago
FILE - U.S. Secret Service agents are seen in front of Joe Biden's Rehoboth Beach, Del., home on Ja...
Eric Tucker, Colleen Long and Zeke Miller, Associated Press

Biden lawyer: FBI finds no classified docs at beach house

The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched President Joe Biden's vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Wednesday without finding any classified documents, the president's personal attorney said.
20 hours ago
Soundgarden performs on stage for Guitar Hero game...
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

Missy, Willie and George Michael among Rock Hall nominees

Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Kate Bush, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow and the late George Michael are nominees for 2023 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a list that includes a mix of country, soul, hip-hop, metal, pop, rap-rock and grunge.
20 hours ago
Mourners sit next to a candle display during a vigil for Tyre Nichols at Regency Community Skatepar...
Aaron Morrison and Travis Loller, Associated Press

‘We’re all Tyre’: Family prepares to lay Nichols to rest

The family of Tyre Nichols plans to lay him to rest Wednesday, three weeks after he died following a brutal beating by Memphis police that was captured on disturbing video that prompted nationwide protests and renewed calls for police reform.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
New Alabama law could jail doctors for transgender treatments