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House Republicans vote to outlaw transition-related health care for minors

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse at sunset with an American flag and Idaho flag.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho House Republicans signed off on a bill Tuesday that would make it a felony for doctors to prescribe hormones or perform surgery on minors as part of transition-related care.

If convicted, they could spend up to life in prison under the proposal.

“We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children,” said Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa).

Transgender people often go through gender dysphoria, which means they experience significant distress due to their sex assigned at birth not aligning with their gender identity.

That can express itself in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality.

Instead of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or surgery, Skaug said trans children need mental health counseling.

“The vast majority of gender-confused children, if allowed to go through puberty, outgrow the problem and accept their bodies over time,” said Skaug, though he didn’t cite a source to support that statement.

The World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) standards, which are widely recognized as the top treatment guidelines to follow, cites 7%to27% of young children with gender dysphoria will continue to experience that condition into adulthood. Adolescents had far higher rates of experiencing gender dysphoria in adulthood at 70%.

Doctors following the WPATH standards also require patients to undergo mental health counseling prior to receiving hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery.

Skaug went on to compare transition-related care to the eugenics movement – the philosophy from the late 19th century that sought to control who could have children to selectively breed out unwanted genetic traits.

That involved the forced sterilization of people of color, low-income people and those with physical or mental conditions.

In 1942,the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an Oklahoma law requiring repeat criminal offenders to be sterilized was unconstitutional.

“Can parents and counselors decide to permanently deprive a minor child of their constitutional right to procreate,” asked Skaug. “No.”

Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot), who voted for the bill, said “the science is not settled” when it comes to the effectiveness of hormones, puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgery on treating gender dysphoria.

Cornell University compiled 51 studies that show reductions in a patient’s severity of gender dysphoria following treatment.

Last month,a study out of Seattle found a 60% reduction in moderate to severe depression and a 73% reduction in suicidality among transgender youth.

TheAmerican Medical Association, theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, thePediatric Endocrine Society and theAmerican Psychiatric Association support transition-related care for minors.

Several transgender teens testified during the bill’s public hearing last week, saying they would’ve committed suicide had they not undergone hormone therapy.

Rep. Ned Burns (D-Bellevue) said he had a cousin who battled addiction issues before she transitioned. Burns said that by blocking these treatment options, transgender youth would be more likely to harm themselves.

“A yes vote will be a noose around the neck of kids who want to live, but not like this,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) objected to Burns, asserting that the proposal would lead to higher rates of youth suicide.

“He doesn’t know that if these kids don’t get this surgery, they’re going to die. You can’t really make broad statements like that,” Scott said.

House Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea (D-Boise) said an Idaho doctor has had to help three transgender youth related to their suicide attempts since the bill was introduced on Feb. 23.

Democrats who debated Tuesday also blasted Republicans over their perceived incongruity when it comes to issues of parental rights and bodily autonomy.

“If we’re going to be consistent with the majority of the rhetorical comments that we hear in this chamber, then you vote no on this bill,” said Rep. Steve Berch (D-Boise).

If the legislation is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, Idaho would join a handful of other states that have implemented similar laws or policies.

Arkansas,Tennessee andTexas have all undertaken similar efforts, some of which are currently being challenged in court.

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

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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.

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