A law banning treatment for transgender youth has come into effect in Alabama despite opposition from parents and humans rights campaigners alike.
The law, which was passed by Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature in April, became effective on Sunday – making the southeastern state the first in the US to enact such a ban on treatments for transgender youth.
It criminalises any gender-affirmative treatment for trans youth below 19 years of age, with a 10-year prison sentence possible for those convicted of violating the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.
While a similar law approved by lawmakers in Arkansas was temporarily blocked last year by a federal court, a similar lawsuit filed on behalf of four Alabama families failed to stop the law becoming reality on Sunday.
On Friday, US District Judge Liles Burke he and his staff would do “nothing else” but work on the case, which asks the court to issue an order blocking the enforcement of Alabama’s anti-trans law.
Twenty-three medical and mental health organisations, including the American Academy of Paediatrics, are among the signatories to the lawsuit.
“Families are scared,” said Dr Morissa Ladinsky, a paediatrician who specialises in treating children with gender, on Sunday. “How can you not feel like the floor was pulled out from under you?”
“People have been focused on [Roev Wade], but Alabama’s ban on medical care for trans kids just became active, despite opposition from every single relevant medical organisation,” wrote Jack Turban, a child psychiatry at Stanford University, on Twitter.
He added: “We’ve reached the begging of the end of having a civilised nation”.
Ms Ladinsky said she remains hopeful, however, that Mr Burke will grant an injunction request.
The Alabama law is the latest to target LGBT+ youth in the US, with a swathe of Republican-majority states introducing bans on trans youth from participating in sports.
Meanwhile in Florida this year schools have been forbidden from discussing LGBT+ issues following the implementation of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
According to the University of California, Los Angeles’s Williams Institute, there are as few as 0.7 per cent of children aged 13 to 17 identifying as transgender in the US. While for adults, the same figure is 0.6 per cent of the population.
Suicide rates among transgender individuals are particularly high however, with the figures worse for trans youth, as a study published in the National Library of Medicine in 2020 found.
The study said “Data indicate that 82 per cent of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40 per cent have attempted suicide, with suicidality highest among transgender youth”.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.