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Bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth sails through House committee

Roam Yocham
Boise State Public Radio

Republicans on a House committee Tuesday greenlit a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Doctors who prescribe puberty blockers, hormones, or who perform sex-reassignment surgery on children under 18 would be charged with a felony under the measure and could face up to 10 years in prison.

House lawmakers have tried to pass similar versions of this bill for years. It hasn’t made much headway in the Senate in the past, though that may change given a sharp tilt to the right after last year’s election.

Several parents of trans kids, or transgender people themselves, spoke out during two hours of public testimony – saying they’ve been made to feel less than for much of their lives.

Kris Huntting, who’s trans and has a transgender child, said they’ve felt excessively unwelcome while living and working in Nampa.

“My kid doesn’t need to feel the way I’ve felt here,” said Huntting. “My kid deserves to be here.”

But Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard), the committee’s vice chair, quickly interrupted her.

“Let’s stick to the bill. Let’s just talk about doing the surgery on the kid,” Scott said.

She interrupted multiple people who testified throughout the afternoon, saying they were off topic while discussing the emotional effect the bill had on them. Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot) also objected multiple times to people criticizing the bill.

Scott cut off testimony from Boise School District Trustee Shiva Rajbhandari, saying he was impugning the motives of lawmakers by saying the bill sends a message to trans kids that they’re a mistake.

Some minors were allowed to testify Tuesday after committee chairman, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) partially rolled back his prohibition on their participation. Earlier this year, he only allowed those under 18 to testify with prior permission from him, though now they can with parental consent.

Several people also supported the bill, including Whitne Strain from Eagle. She said opponents are improperly using words like compassion and protection.

“I believe these words are being corrupted and misused because compassion is actually protecting a young mind against adults that wage psychological warfare,” Strain said.

Much of the testimony from doctors focused on whether gender-affirming care actually helps transgender youth with depression and suicidal thoughts.

Bill supporters said no, though a study by Stanford researchers published last year founddepression and suicidality was lower in those who get such care earlier in life.

Rep. Chris Mathias (D-Boise) appealed to his GOP colleagues, reminding them that many have said the right for a parent to choose which – if any – medical care their children receive is paramount.

“It’s really hard for the public to trust us when we use our principles and follow them selectively,” Mathias said.

But Young countered, “All philosophies aside, I believe that we have a responsibility to prioritize the preservation of the long-term physical health and function of children.”

The measure passed out of committee along party lines and now goes to the full House.

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!