A law banning sex-change surgeries and cross-sex hormone treatments for children in the US state of Alabama has been upheld by a federal court on appeal, after part of it was initially struck down by a lower court.
The Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which was passed into law in 2022, also prohibits school officials from “withholding information from parents whose children are struggling with gender dysphoria or who have expressed a desire to transition to another sex”.
There are currently 22 states in the United States that have enacted restrictions on “transgender medical interventions for minors”.
These developments in the US, along with other parts of the world, contrast with the outdated approach still being favoured in Australia.
Countries like England, Sweden and Finland in particular are restricting access to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones due to lack of an evidence base underpinning these treatments and the uncertainty about their long-term risks.
Here in Australia, however, doctors are being punished for speaking up and voicing concerns about the ethics of these treatments for children and teenagers.
Dr Jillian Spencer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has been stood down from her position at Queensland Children’s Hospital in relation to this issue, has spoken with the media about the repercussions for her career and work in speaking up:
“The hospital took the opportunity to remove me from clinical duties on the grounds of being a danger to trans and gender diverse children because I’ve got a history of expressing concerns about the gender clinic in our hospital and the model they’re using called the affirmation model”.
Dr Spencer has lodged a complaint with the Queensland Human Rights Commission on the basis that she should have the right as a doctor to object to the unscientific ‘affirmation’ model of care for children.
Freedom of conscience for medical professionals regarding the controversial issue of gender treatments for minors goes to the heart of the ability of doctors to care for and treat their patients in accordance with their expertise and training.
Emeritus Professor of Law Patrick Parkinson has expressed concern about Dr Spencer’s treatment:
“We have a leading psychiatrist being silenced potentially from raising these issues in her hospital.
Is she being targeted because like doctors all over the world she's raising serious issues about young people in her care?”
The silencing of medical practitioners who raise legitimate concerns about the treatment being provided to vulnerable children and adolescents in Australia is a major concern. It represents a fundamental breach of their human rights, limiting their freedom of thought, conscience and beliefs.
Dr Spencer will be arguing that the imposition of the requirement to adopt a gender affirmation model is incompatible with her human rights.
HRLA will be assisting Dr Spencer with her legal action.
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