Idaho has made it a crime to provide gender-affirming care to transgender minors.
Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, signed House Bill 71 into law Tuesday evening, deeming any such care a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison. It covers not only surgery but puberty blockers and hormone therapy. It goes into effect next January.
“In signing this bill, I recognize our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies,” Little said in a letter to legislators, according to the Associated Press. “However, as policymakers we should take great caution whenever we consider allowing the government to interfere with loving parents and their decisions about what is best for their children.”
The bill passed even though genital surgery is almost never performed on minors anyway, and definitely not in Idaho, doctors there say, and that other treatments are endorsed by the American Medical Association and other major health care groups.
While the legislation was pending, trans girl Eve Devitt, who is 17, told lawmakers that receiving estrogen was lifesaving, the Idaho Statesman reports. “I’ve been able to get myself off a cliff that I wasn’t sure if I would ever find myself off of,” she said. “I feel so much better and more complete with myself.”
The bill was crafted by Rep. Bruce Skaug, a Republican, along with the Idaho Family Policy Center, a Christian right group. The organization lobbied heavily for the measure.
“So far, we’ve had nearly 2,500 Idaho residents send emails to Gov. Little through our web-based Action Center, which was promoted through our email newsletter and social media advertisements,” the group’s president, Blaine Conzatti, told the Idaho Capital Sun Tuesday. “Additionally, we launched a nearly $5,000 robocall with an automatic patch-through to the governor’s phone lines.”
Another far-right group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, mobilized support for the bill as well, while Add the Words Idaho, which works for LGBTQ+ rights, encouraged citizens to urge Little to veto it. “Ever since it passed the Senate floor, I have fielded several phone calls from parents who are frantic and near hysterics when they call me — in tears, terrified for their trans teen and the impacts of this bill and what will happen to them and their family if they don’t have access to the medication for their kids,” Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, executive director of Add the Words Idaho, told the Capital Sun. “It’s terrifying, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Idaho and Little are no strangers to anti-trans legislation. In 2020, Idaho became the first state to bar trans athletes from competing under their gender identity. That law is temporarily blocked while a court challenge to it proceeds. In late March, Little signed a bill into law barring trans students in public schools from using multi-occupancy restrooms, changing rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity.
Last year legislators considered a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors, which would have put doctors at risk of life in prison, but even Republican lawmakers called it “government overreach” and pulled the bill. But now similar legislation, with a lesser but still harsh penalty, has passed.
The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, was quick to condemn the latest bill. “This bill goes against decades of expert guidance on best-practice transgender medical care and allows the government to override personal medical decisions made between patients, their doctors, and their parents,” Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said in a press release. “The Trevor Project’s research found that 60% of trans and nonbinary youth in Idaho seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 27% made an attempt. Trans youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk, but rather placed at heightened risk because of how they are mistreated in society. Lawmakers should be prioritizing efforts to protect the health and well-being of Idaho’s young people — not passing laws to isolate trans and nonbinary youth further. We will continue fighting back against these dangerous efforts, along with our partners and allies on the ground. For young people in Idaho — or anywhere else — who may be feeling scared or overwhelmed by this news, the Trevor Project has your back. Our counselors are here for you 24/7.”