‘What is a woman?’ bill approved by Alabama House committee


Article by: Sarah Swetlik


A bill that would create strict definitions of “man” and “woman” in Alabama state law passed out of the House Health Committee Wednesday, and now heads to the House floor for a vote.


HB405, by Rep. Susan DuBose, R-Hoover, is called the ‘What Is A Woman Act,’ and defines men and women by their reproductive organs.


The bill, which passed 8-4 with one abstention, defines a female as someone whose reproductive system produces ova, and a male as someone whose reproductive system can fertilize ova. The terms “woman” and “girl” apply to females, and “man” and “boy” apply to males, according to the legislation.


“I don’t understand what the obsession is with the trans community,” said former Rep. Patricia Todd, who now leads the advocacy group Alabama Equality, adding that the state has “a lot of problems” and referencing her 12-year tenure in the statehouse. “We have a prison crisis. We have a healthcare crisis. And that’s what we need to be focusing on. This is not a crisis in Alabama.”


Critics of the bill have said it endangers transgender people and could create difficulties for people whose reproductive systems may not fit into the specific definitions in the bill.


Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he worries that the bill’s definitions are not comprehensive enough to represent the human body.


The bill provides that individuals who have been diagnosed with a “disorder or difference in sex development” will be afforded protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It does not further address Alabamians whose reproductive systems may differ from those defined in the bill.


Rafferty said he worries someone with a disease that would affect whether or not they’re able to produce ova or fertilize it, regardless of what organs they have, would be negatively affected by the legislation.


He also expressed concern over the variety of disorders of sex development, asking DuBose which ones would be included and whether children would have to undergo tests at birth to diagnose them.


“Is this something that we’re going to be subjecting all children to get tested for when they’re born? Like chromosome analysis, hormone levels and hormone stimulation tests, electrolyte tests, specific molecular testing, endoscopic exams or an ultrasound or MRI to actually verify the sex of the child or person?” Rafferty asked.


DuBose said she’d communicated with the Alabama Department of Public Health about disorders of sexual development, but added that, if a diagnosis was not made at birth, it would have to be a case-by-case basis.


The bill passed by substitute with amendments from DuBose, though the amended version is not publicly available at the time of publishing.


HB405 received a public hearing on May 17, where lawmakers heard from constituents, many of whom expressed concerns about the bill and its impact. DuBose said she had multiple amendments, and the bill was carried over. Wednesday’s vote marked the bill’s second week in committee.


It’s one of several bills that a large group showed up to protest May 16, including a bill that would ban drag performances and another that would extend limits around conversations regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom from fifth to eighth grade. Earlier this year, DuBose also sponsored a bill that would force college athletes to play on teams that align with the gender on their birth certificate. The bill passed both chambers.


Four transgender women spoke against the bill during the first hearing.


Allison Montgomery of Huntsville said she’s been living as a woman for a year and has found herself welcomed by the women around her.


“I know from living womanhood, that it’s right for me and that my doing so is absolutely not harmful to those around me. It’s also become abundantly apparent that this is what God intended for my life. I actually want to live my life now, unlike before transition,” Montgomery said during the hearing.


Montgomery said she hoped lawmakers would vote against the bill.


“Unfortunately, HB405 is going to make life in Alabama unsafe and unlivable for me and all trans Alabamians. It would be used to force trans women like myself in the bathrooms with men and trans men into bathrooms with women,” she said. “Furthermore, it would be used to place trans men in women’s prisons and trans women like me in men’s prisons, which is an inherently dangerous situation for us.” 


In an interview with AL.com, DuBose said she admires transgender women and “is in no way trying to deny their existence, or their rights or their relevance or their importance.”


DuBose said the bill is created to prevent violence from occurring in “women’s spaces.”


When asked if she was aware of incidents of violence occurring in such spaces in Alabama that are open to transgender women, DuBose said she was not, but said “it’s going on throughout our nation.”


DuBose added that she believes this bill will “affect a few women that are in these very specific situations,” and will not apply to most people.


Belle Moyers, a biologist from Huntsville, said she worries about how people who don’t meet the specific criteria for man or woman would be affected by the bill.


“In biology, you have to choose the most appropriate definition for your question. Choosing the wrong definition leads to bad science. In law, choosing the wrong definition leads to injustice. This bill is not about biology. It masquerades as biology. It tries to use a technical definition, but it’s not the right one,” Moyers said during the hearing. “This bill uses an arbitrary aspect of a person’s biology to regulate social spaces. It’s the government sticking its nose into all of our lives to make them more dangerous and frankly, more annoying. This bill is a government examining and classifying your body, your wife’s body, your husband’s body and your child’s body.”


Only one person, Becky Gerritson of Eagle Forum, signed up to speak in favor of the bill.


The bill also expands the definition of person to include “an individual, corporation, partnership, company, or other business entity.”


Next, the bill will have to receive a second reading, then a potential vote before it can repeat the process in the Alabama Senate. There are five legislative days left in the 2023 session.


To see the full article, visit AL.com.

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