On Wednesday, 1819 News learned State Health Officer Scott Harris was personally reaching out to lawmakers and other state officials to dispute an 1819 News report regarding remarks he had offered earlier in the week at the so-called "Substance Use and Social Justice Symposium" at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB).

Sources tell 1819 News that Harris denied the reporting and suggested his remarks were "taken out of context."

Harris commented on a variety of public policy issues, including Medicaid expansion and that opposition to Medicaid expansion was based on a "racist assumption" about the unwillingness to work of those who are uninsured.

However, during the question-and-answer session of the program, Harris was explicitly asked about any "planned response" from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) regarding so-called "gender-affirming health care.

1819 News is providing audio of Harris' remarks to clear up any allegations of inaccurate reporting or claims that his comments were taken out of context.

QUESTION: "Given that HIV and substance use disorders, people particularly at risk for those include queer and trans people. Does ADPH have a planned response to legislation opposed to or… limit gender-affirming health care?"

HARRIS: "Yes, we absolutely are appalled by some of the stuff that we've seen. We have done our very best to educate people and try to make it clear that… Our ability to influence legislators kind of comes from what I described: one-at-a-time conversations. A lot of this stuff outages all of us. It's really tempting to want to lash out at people. I'm not critical of people who do that. I would say, as a state agency, that's not for us to do that. We have to handle things in a more respectful … kind of way. Any trans legislation, all that stuff, it's coming from these national think tanks that go 'What's going to bring voters out for our party?' They try this. They try that. And then this trans stuff they realize for some reason it's a hot button for a certain group of voters."

Although Harris was not specific about legislation regarding limits to "gender-affirming care," the only bill passed by the Alabama Legislature on the subject came last year with the Vulnerable Child Protection Act (VCAP).

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) and then-State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy), prohibited puberty blockers, high levels of the other gender's sex hormones, and surgeries to change the birth gender for minors.

Following the event, 1819 News approached Harris and asked him to clarify whether he was referring to the 2022 law, but he declined.

1819 NEWS: "You made some comments about some legislation dealing with trans people was appalling. Were you referring to the legislation that prevents hormone therapy for minors?"

HARRIS: "I wasn't referring to any one thing in particular."

1819 NEWS: "Well, could you specify what you were referring to?"

HARRIS: "Not any one thing in particular."

1819 NEWS: "Do you want to elaborate further on what you meant by that?"

HARRIS: "I don't have anything else to say."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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