Iowa is close to becoming the next state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, and it’s also advancing an anti-trans “bathroom bill.”
The Iowa Senate Tuesday passed the gender-affirming care ban, Senate File 538, by a party-line vote of 33-16. The state’s House of Representatives was scheduled to debate the bill Wednesday.
The measure would ban not only gender-confirmation surgery but also puberty blockers and hormone treatment. Doctors who defy the ban could lose their licenses or be sued by any Iowan, and the state’s attorney general could take action against them as well.
“Children should not be pushed to receive experimental medical treatments that can leave them permanently sterile and physically marred for life,” said its sponsor, Republican Sen. Jeff Edler, according to The Des Moines Register. “Iowa has a duty to protect its citizens, especially our children.”
However, far from being experimental, the treatments are endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other major health care groups. Genital surgery is not recommended for minors, and medical professionals testified to legislators that it’s not being performed on minors in Iowa. The effects of puberty blockers are fully reversible, and the effects of hormone treatment largely reversible.
Democratic Sen. Liz Bennett, who is bisexual, objected strongly to the bill, TV station WOI reports. “These children are precious; they deserve to live,” she said. “They deserve a voice in their care. And no one is more concerned about that than themselves, their parents, their doctors, and their faith leaders, all of whom come together to form teams to support these kids so that we can get them to 18 in the first place. So I’m very sad about this bill tonight. A vote for this bill is a vote for trans youth suicide.”
The ”bathroom bill,” Senate File 482, would require students in public schools to use the restrooms and changing rooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth. Schools could provide alternative arrangements for trans students. It also passed by a party-line vote of 33-16 and now goes to the House for consideration.
Its opponents said there have been no problems in the state related to trans students’ presence in these facilities, but Republican Sen. Chris Cournoyer said some parents have told her they’re worried about their daughters sharing the spaces with trans girls.
“We need to ensure that all students feel safe at our schools so they can focus on learning,” she said, according to the Register. “We cannot sacrifice the rights and privacy of some students to accommodate the rights and privacy of others.”
But Bennett said the legislation could lead to bullying, WOI reports. “It gives license to a new corps of potty police,” she said. “Instead of minding their own business and just going to the bathroom, kids will use this to bully other kids. Bills like this continue a line of efforts to use fear and violence to force people into gender roles assigned by society.”
“This bill, if enacted, will cause kids not to go to the bathroom all day,” said another Democrat, Sen. Claire Celsi, according to TV station WHO. “It will cause them to feel outed and harassed and made to feel less than.”
LGBTQ+ activists decried both bills. “While Iowa has historically been a leader for civil rights, the Iowa legislature has sought to relentlessly demonize and harm transgender Iowans this year,” Becky Tayler, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, told the Register.
Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley released this statement: “LGBTQ+ students, especially transgender students, in Iowa deserve to feel welcomed and safe in their schools. Instead, radical politicians are using their power to further alienate and target transgender students as part of a hateful, coordinated campaign to pander to their base. It is appalling that the Iowa Senate would pass these bills that would further alienate young people in schools and deny young people access to age-appropriate, medically necessary care. This ban is not only discriminatory but also life-threatening. Transgender youth already face alarming levels of discrimination, and this would only further harm them. No parent or healthcare provider should have to choose between following best medical practices or facing legal consequences. We urge the Iowa House to reject this heartless legislation."
High school and college students around the state staged walkouts last week to protest the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being put forth in Iowa, including the anti-trans bills and the state's version of a "don't say gay" bill. Organizers said 47 schools participated, the Register reports.
"In Des Moines, about 400 students marched in sunny, temperate weather from Central Academy to the governor's mansion, chanting 'We say gay!'; 'What do you want? Justice! When do you want it? Now!'; and 'Trans rights are human rights,'" according to the paper.