State of Alabama Enacts Chemical Castration LawJune 12, 2019

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill on Monday that requires people convicted of certain sex offenses to undergo forced chemical castration that has been condemned as inhumane, ineffective, and unconstitutional.

HB379 provides that a person convicted of a sex offense involving a person under age 13 must start chemical castration one month prior to his or her release on parole until a court determines it "is no longer necessary." Chemical castration is defined as receiving a drug that "reduces, inhibits, or blocks the production of testosterone, hormones, or other chemicals in a person's body."

The bill mandates that the person on parole must pay for all of the costs associated with chemical castration, which can reach $1000 a month for the drugs alone, Dr. Renee Sorrentino, a forensic psychiatrist in Massachusetts who prescribes chemical castration, told Vox.

The bill makes intentionally stopping chemical castration a Class C felony, punishable under Alabama law by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Representative Steve Hurst (R-Calhoun County) introduced the bill, which passed the legislature last month. He told WBRC he would rather require permanent surgical castration. "My preference would be, if someone does a small infant child like that, they need to die," he said. "God's going to deal with them one day."

A similar bill failed last year in Oklahoma, the Atlantic reports. One year after the former Soviet republic of Moldova passed a law mandating chemical castration for child sex offenders in 2012, it was deemed a "violation of fundamental human rights" and repealed.

Doctors and human rights groups say Alabama's law is misguided. It's not going to deliver protection, Dr. Sorrentino said, because it does not take into account that chemical castration is not effective for people who are not motivated by pedophilic interest, or that it does not work on women, who comprise about 7 percent of people required to register as sex offenders.

Advocates for victims of sex offenses have also criticized the law because such blanket requirements can undermine more effective treatment policies by "looking at all people who sexually offend as though they are the same," said Laura Palumbo, communications director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Chemical castration has many potential side effects, including hair loss, breast growth, weight gain, diabetes, and bone loss, that need to be thoroughly explained to patients by doctors as part of a medical evaluation to determine if it is safe for them, Dr. Sorrentino said. But Alabama's law provides that the court, not a medical professional, will inform the person about the chemical castration drugs and any side effects.

Caitlin Donovan, a spokesperson for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, also criticized the new law. "Medical decisions should remain between a patient and their provider," she told CNN. "I worry about any precedent that allows the state to use health care as a form of punishment."