BOISE – The Idaho House on Tuesday voted to prohibit gender reassignment surgeries and gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy for minors.
The House voted 55-13 with no Democratic support to send the measure to the Senate.
“This bill is about protecting children, which is a legitimate state interest,” said Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, the bill’s sponsor. “We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children under the age of 18.”
Opponents called the measure government intrusion into agonizing family decisions that will result in some young people attempting suicide if they can’t get the treatment they need.
“Over half of trans kids have seriously contemplated suicide,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, noting that talk therapy doesn’t work for some. “The only thing that will work for them is medical procedures.”
If the measure becomes law, it’s widely expected to be challenged in federal court as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause that prohibits states from focusing on individuals without a legitimate governmental objective.
Specifically, Skaug’s bill seeks to amend an Idaho law outlawing female genital mutilation by also banning puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgeries when administered to children struggling with gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which they identify. It’s recognized by the American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association.
Those violating the law would be guilty of a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
In opposing the bill, Democratic Rep. Lauren Necochea said: “We need to trust those parents and providers to make these deeply personal decisions.”
The American Medical Association last year urged state governments to stay out of prohibiting what it called medically necessary gender transition-related care for minor patients.
Republican Rep. Fred Wood, the House’s only medical doctor, was the only Republican who voted against the measure.
About 10 states have are considering legislation similar to Idaho’s measure, Skaug said. Among them are Arizona and Tennessee.
Skaug framed his argument in part on the right of people to have children, arguing parents and doctors were violating the rights of minors by allowing reassignment surgeries that precluded them from having children themselves, equating it with “sterilization procedures.”
Democratic Rep. Ned Burns contended the proposed law was not a bill that would protect life.
“We sit around here and we call ourselves pro-life in this body, but if this bill passes that will most certainly not be true because a yes vote will be a noose around the neck kids who want to live, but not like this,” he said.
Republican Rep. Julianne Young said she was concerned some children would not be born if lawmakers allow reassignment surgery to continue.
“We’re not talking about the life of the child, but we are talking about the potential to give life to another generation,” she said. “I don’t see it as a contradiction.”
Republican Rep. Brent Crane, chairman of the House State Affairs Committee where the bill originated, said juveniles testified at the committee hearing and he recognized their struggles with gender identity as real.
But he supported the bill blocking surgery and puberty blockers for minors, saying it should be Idaho’s policy of not allowing minors to “make any of those decisions in those tumultuous teenage years. Instead, you will make those decisions once you reach adulthood.”
But Rubel said allowing puberty to continue, for example, could result in a male growing much taller and developing broad shoulders and an Adam’s apple before being allowed to transition to a female.
“Allowing puberty to run its course changes the body in profound and irreversible ways,” she said. “You are forcing people into a situation where the transition for the rest of their life on Earth will be far less effective. You are really messing with their lives until their dying day.”
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