On Tuesday, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris delivered the keynote address at the "Substance Use and Social Justice Symposium" at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB). There, Harris criticized legislation prohibiting so-called gender-affirming treatment.

Harris said that the ADPH was "appalled" by some of the legislation in the state.

Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation in 2022 that prohibited providing puberty blockers, artificial hormones, and sex surgery operations for children under 19.

Following the event, 1819 News asked Harris to specify which legislation he was referring to, and he refused.

When 1819 News reported his comments on Wednesday, Harris told lawmakers that the report was "taken out of context." However, 1819 News released the full audio from Harris' remarks on Thursday. 

Ivey spoke at an event on Thursday in Trussville and was asked about Harris' comments.

"I didn't hear the speech, nor have I read the speech," Ivey answered. "But we need to protect our children."

Additionally, during the UAB symposium, Harris took the time to urge audience members to lobby legislators to expand Medicaid and insisted that opposition to Medicaid expansion is racist.

"What are we going to do about Medicaid expansion? I will say you can change things by how you vote," Harris said. "You really can. That's the simplest answer to give, even though it's the hardest one to do. I will tell you, legislators, they really notice when people … send them a handwritten letter. We kind of have this idea that if we can get five different people to interact with them personally with them on an issue, we have a good chance of changing their minds. A constituent. Not an expert. If they hear from them, they can change their minds on a lot of different issues."

"I've never really explained Medicaid expansion to a legislator who was opposed to it and recognized that they actually understood what I was talking about," he continued. "There's a lot of misconceptions out there. The single biggest misconception about Medicaid expansion is that Alabama already provides medical coverage to a lot of able-bodied adults who won't work. Hopefully, I'm speaking to friends. That's just kind of a racist assumption. It's just based on a lot of stereotypes, and it's wrong."

Throughout Ivey's 2018 gubernatorial election bid, she frequently voiced her opposition to Medicaid.

"It's important that we have the availability of quality health care for our people," she said at an October 2018 event at Oak Hollow Farm in Fairhope. "That's for sure. But at the same time, we've got to be sure we're doing all we can with the Medicaid program, and nobody has come up with how we're going to pay back the high cost if we expand it."

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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