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Idaho Advances Bill to Criminalize Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

Idaho Advances Bill to Criminalize Gender-Affirming Care for Minors

Idaho Republican Reps. Lori McCann and Bruce Skaug

The bill, passed by the House and now going to the Senate, calls for a prison sentence of up to 10 years for health care workers who authorize or provide the care.

Idaho is advancing a bill that would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors.

The state’s House of Representatives Tuesday approved House Bill 71, which would make it a crime to authorize or provide puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or gender-confirmation surgery to people under 18. Conviction would carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $5,000. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The vote came largely along party lines, with all 11 Democrats and one Republican opposing it and 58 Republicans in favor, the Idaho Capital Sunreports.

During debate on the bill, Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, its sponsor, “likened gender-affirming care for trans youth to eugenics, the pharmaceutical opioid crisis and ‘other things that were popular in medical circles … that now we know were evil, outright evil,’” according to the Capital Sun.

Skaug proposed similar legislation last year; it carried a prison sentence of up to life. The House passed it, but the Senate did not consider it.

Democrats and even some Republicans spoke against the bill. Democratic Rep. Colin Nash said he has a transgender sibling and that a relative of his wife died by suicide “over issues related to their transgender status,” he said on the House floor.

“And although I may not understand it, I believe them, that they feel differently and they want the world to see them differently,” he said.

Republican Rep. Lori McCann expressed reservations about the measure. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this bill, I’ve wrestled with it, I’ve talked with professionals, I’ve talked with medical folks, parents, I’ve talked with actual transgender people, and I want them to know that I care, I feel for them,” she said. “And [gender dysphoria] is real. It is something that is real, that we all need to try to understand.”

However, she ended up voting for the bill because of the surgery ban, although genital surgery is almost never performed on minors, and legislators were told it isn’t happening in Idaho.

Nash noted, “The surgeries that are [described in the bill] are not something that I saw in the standard of care for my own sibling — and, largely, that care is helping a child feel understood, accepted and helping them to a place where they can safely make these decisions on their own.”

Indeed, genital surgery is outside the standard of care for minors, while treatment with hormones and puberty blockers is supported by every major medical association.

The only Republican who voted against the legislation, Matthew Bundy, said he did so because he thought it would interfere with access to counseling for trans youth and their families, the Associated Press reports.

Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias mentioned the high rate of self-harm among trans youth. “This bill is going to throw gasoline on that problem,” he said, according to the AP.

Another Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, said the legislation would interfere with parental rights, Boise State Public Radio reports. The state has long supported parents’ control over their children’s medical care, to the point that they have the legal right to refuse treatment for their children if it goes against their religious beliefs, she pointed out.

“That has been permitted in the state of Idaho because of this deep, deep commitment to parental rights over children’s care no matter what — even if it kills the kid,” Rubel said.

Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley denounced the Idaho bill, issuing this statement: “This piece of legislation is both discriminatory and deeply offensive. Decisions about what age-appropriate, best practice medical care — care that is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and all relevant experts — is appropriate for a specific transgender young person is made with the informed consent of the young person, their parents, and the medical experts providing their care. Idaho’s legislature, on the other hand, has discriminated against transgender people in bill after bill in recent years, and the proposition that they know more about this care than the medical experts, or care more about the welfare of these children than their parents, is ludicrous. Their allegation that transition-related care — which is entirely social for young transgender folks and reversible for teens — is comparable to gender mutilation is deeply unserious and offensive, particularly since this bill also explicitly authorizes truly irreversible surgical interventions for non-transgender people. This bill is another anti-transgender legislative embarrassment for Idaho and only serves to hurt children while it cements the Idaho legislature’s reputation for discrimination.”

More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, including nearly 100 that target trans health care in more than 20 states.South Dakota this week became the latest to see one become law, with Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signing a bill to ban transition-related care for minors. Earlier, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill to this effect. Alabama and Arkansas had passed bans in previous years, and both are blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed. Florida medical boards have prohibited this care, and a university hospital in Oklahoma has ceased providing the treatment to minors after the state passed a law to withhold funds. Bans are advancing in West Virginia and Mississippi, while such legislation has been quashed in Virginia.

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