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Amendments coming for bill outlawing gender-affirming care for minors

Senator Todd Lakey
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa) presiding over a committee hearing on a bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care for minors.

A bill to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors is headed to the Senate floor for amendments.

One of its sponsors, Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian), wants to restructure the proposal. Currently, it would insert the ban under Idaho’s female genital mutilation statute.

“We realized that putting those two things together really just wasn’t a good fit,” Den Hartog said.

She provided no additional details as to what any other amendments might be.

The bill in its current form would make it a felony for doctors to prescribe cross-sex hormones or puberty blockers to those under 18. It would also outlaw performing sex-reassignment surgery on a minor – something that isn’t done in Idaho.

Anyone convicted under the proposal could face up to 10 years in prison.

Opponents of the bill repeatedly stressed this is a parental rights issue, something conservative lawmakers in the Idaho legislature hold sacrosanct.

When asked about that consideration, Den Hartog said she “wrestled” with that conflict before signing on as a co-sponsor.

What concerned her most were questions over how kids and families are being counseled by the medical community as they try to treat a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Supporters of the bill said hormone therapy is too easy to obtain –something other physicians who treat transgender patients reject.

She said it’s a separate issue from Idaho’s faith healing exemption, which allows parents to withhold medical treatment from their children, even if it kills them, because of their religious beliefs.

“There’s a difference between doing something to a child or withholding something from a child,” Den Hartog said.

Sen. Linda Wright Hartgen (R-Twin Falls), the lone Republican to join Democrats in an attempt to kill the bill in committee, considers the bill to be an about-face by lawmakers who claim to prioritize parental rights.

She mentioned two recent examples, including legislation strengthening Idaho’s parental bill of rights.

“It passed in the House 67-3 and it passed in the Senate 34-0 with one person being absent. So, we all believe in parental rights when it suits our needs, evidently,” Wright Hartgen said.

Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Moscow) characterized the issue as one of protecting the public, which will “probably” result in some blowback.

Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise) said she understands the need to protect the public, but that legislators need to also embrace the concept of do no harm, which physicians take an oath to uphold.

“I think that cuts both ways,” said Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa). “We’re talking about children under the age of 18 and I don’t think they are old enough to make these kinds of permanent decisions.”

Religious and conservative organizations support the bill, claiming the medications aren’t reversible and do nothing to lower trans suicide rates.

However,dozens of studies show these treatments reduce depression and suicide in transgender people. Puberty blockers are reversible, though hormones can result in infertility.

The decision comes after two hours of emotional testimony.

“HB 71 is a direct attack on my family,” said Gretchen Rauer, a mother of a transgender daughter, who lives in Eagle.

“In Idaho, with parental consent, minors are allowed to have breast surgery, cosmetic nose surgery, face and neck tattoos, as well as body piercings,” Rauer said, noting there are no bills under consideration to address those instances.

“I was never groomed or socially pressured into being trans,” said Lynn Tomson who said she was born and raised in Boise. “Social pressures delayed my coming out by over a year.”

Care that would be outlawed under the bill is “safe” and “necessary,” Thomson said.

“The needless politicization of our care by lies of hate groups like the American College of Pediatrics that have been disgraced by the larger medical community kills us.”

The American College of Pediatrics, which has only a few hundred members, opposes gender-affirming care.

Meanwhile, major medical associations representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, specialists, psychologists and counselors embrace these treatments as necessary for those with gender dysphoria.

The amending process at the Idaho legislature allows any lawmaker to propose changes to a bill, which can range from small tweaks to entirely replacing the bill with a completely different subject.

As the committee adjourned, one transgender teen in the audience said she would kill herself if taken off estrogen and testosterone suppressing drugs.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call or text 988 to reach the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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