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Idaho House votes to criminalize health care for trans youth

Representative Bruce Skaug debating
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
A bill from Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) would punish cities or counties that refuse to investigate or prosecute felony crimes in Idaho. The measure passed largely along party lines.

House Republicans voted to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth Tuesday, gaining even more support than a similar measure considered last year.

Doctors who treat transgender patients who are under 18 with puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or who perform sex-reassignment surgery could be guilty of a felony under the bill and they could spend up to 10 years in prison.

Transgender patients say such treatments reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and suicidality,which is echoed by a study published last year.

But Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa), the chief sponsor of the bill, said no one should have the right to “sterilize” their child.

“A lot of this is based on what the child’s feelings and thoughts are going forward on these procedures,” said Skaug. “That’s the wrong way to approach it scientifically.”

Sex reassignment surgeries, which Skaug admitted aren’t being performed in Idaho, do permanently sterilize the patient.

Cross-sex hormones can potentially cause sterilization,according to doctors. Puberty blockers can lead to infertility as well,depending on when they’re administered, though their use isn’t supposed to be long-term.

All major medical industry groups in the U.S., including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, support gender-affirming care for minors.

Rep. Lori McCann (R-Lewiston) spoke for nearly 10 minutes, mentioning a transgender relative and how she had spoken with parents of transgender children about this issue.

If one of her children or grandchildren were experiencing gender dysphoria, McCann said, “I would fight like all get out to get them the treatment, whatever it is that they need.”

Despite that, and concerns she had that this would restrict parental rights, she voted to pass the bill, saying she wanted to ban sex-reassignment surgery for minors.

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (D-Boise) also raised the disconnect between holding parental rights as sacrosanct and this legislation – specifically comparing it to the state’s faith healing exemption.

Idaho allows parents to refuse medical treatment for their children based on their religious beliefs.

“That has been permitted in the state of Idaho because of this deep, deep commitment to parental rights over children’s care no matter what – even if it kills the kid,” Rubel said.

Ultimately, just one Republican, Rep. Matthew Bundy (R-Mountain Home), voted against the bill, which passed 58-12 – three more votes than similar legislation passed by the House last year.

The Senate refused to take up that proposal in 2022, though it’s unclear what chances it may have now that the body has shifted to the right politically following November’s election.

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.

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