Trans youth care ban moves forward in Idaho legislature

Providing gender-affirming care could be a felony if the bill is passed.

March 9, 2022, 3:06 PM

Idaho could become the latest state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Lawmakers in the State House voted in favor of bill HB 675, which makes it a felony to provide such care. Now the bill goes to the State Senate.

Anyone who provides or knowingly gives permission for a child or teen to receive hormone therapy or physical alterations to affirm their gender identity would be punished under this law and could face life in prison.

Gender affirmation is when transgender people make changes to their lives in accordance with their gender identity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That can be done through a change of clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, names and pronouns.

Gender affirmation can also come in the form of hormone therapy or surgeries to alter one's physical characteristics.

On the House floor, State Rep. Ilana Rubel told a story of her friend's child who knew he was transgender from a young age. After he transitioned -- publicly expressing oneself as another gender -- Rubel said she saw him turn from a troubled youth to a successful college student.

Idaho Rep. Bruce Skaug sits at his desk inside the house chambers at the state Capitol building, Jan. 10, 2022, in Boise, Idaho.
Otto Kitsinger/AP, FILE

"This is obviously not a step that a family takes lightly," Rubel said. "This is a step that comes after literally thousands of hours of agonizing. There is no parent in the world who is just finding a way to force sex-change treatments on to their kids."

She added, "They do this because they realize after endless excruciating probing that this is what their child needs."

Rubel also noted that gender-affirming care is supported by medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, Idaho Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and more.

People rally at the Capitol in Boise, Idaho, March 4, 2020, in support of transgender students and athletes.
Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, said he does not support underage gender reassignment surgeries or therapies and claimed that "Europe is pulling back from this type of procedure now because they've seen negative effects and there's no positive mental health effect for children," though he did not cite specific research or examples.

"We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children under the age of 18," Skaug went on. "This is a mental illness that needs to be treated," referring to trans identities.

He suggested that people rely on "old fashioned counseling, talk therapy" and "traditional psychology methods" to address trans identities and needs in youth.

A detail photo of a collection of small Pride Flags and Transgender Pride Flags.
Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images, FILE

More than 30 states have introduced some kind of legislation against transgender youth -- including bills that ban trans girls from sports or designating changing rooms for trans children based on their assigned sex at birth.

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at Human Rights Campaign, said she is disappointed that "some politicians in Boise have decided to follow Texas and Alabama down the path of imposing felony criminal penalties upon doctors who are simply doing their jobs."

She noted that a recent study found that gender-affirming care reduces the risk of moderate or severe depression by 60% and suicidality by 73%.

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