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Idaho Senate passes ban on gender-affirming care for minors

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Transgender youth in Idaho are one step away from being unable to obtain cross-sex hormones, puberty blockers or gender-confirmation surgery.

State senators passed a bill Monday afternoon 22-12 making it a felony for doctors to prescribe these medications, facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Gender-confirmation surgeries aren’t performed on minors in Idaho – something the legislation’s sponsors have admitted.

Six other states this year have adopted similar laws, which include Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.

“One of the hardest things we can do as a parent is to say no to our children and this legislation doesn’t say no. It says not yet,” said Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian), one of the bill’s chief sponsors.

Supporters argue gender dysphoria, a condition that causes, at times, extreme distress over the disconnect between a person’s body and their gender identity, should only be treated psychologically. That’s despite numerous national industry groups representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, psychologists and other healthcare workers endorsing gender-affirming care.

Dozens of studies also show gender-affirming care leads to lower suicide rates and depression. Trans people experience both conditions significantly more often than the rest of Americans.

Sen. Chris Trakel (R-Caldwell) said peer pressure and the media that young people consume influence what choices they make in their lives.

“If my parents would’ve let me make those kinds of decisions, I’d have been Batman and probably got killed by now,” Trakel said.

Sen. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) compared transitioning to planning a wedding. All the excitement comes during the process, culminating in the wedding itself, Nichols said.

“As soon as it’s over, you’re back to reality again,” she said, claiming these treatments don’t improve trans people’s lives in the long-term, despite research to the contrary.

For a few senators, the issue is personal.

“This hits really close to home,” said Sen. Geoff Schroeder (R-Mountain Home), who has a transgender child.

He said lawmakers – none of whom are physicians – are “parachuting” into exam rooms to tell doctors how to treat patients.

“Having the 35 of you in that room with me would not have been welcome, as much as I like a lot of you,” said Schroeder. “That’s between the doctor and my wife, my child and I.”

Senate Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) and Sen. Treg Bernt (R-Meridian) also said they had family members who are transgender. All three voted against the legislation.

Several times this year, state senators have declared parental rights to be paramount, whether it involved creating education savings accounts allowing families to spend taxpayer dollars on private school tuition or strengthening Idaho’s parental bill of rights.

Multiple opponents, including Sen. Linda Wright Hartgen (R-Twin Falls), said those same principles should apply to transgender health as well.

“I cannot flip-flop and get whiplash on every bill we have,” Wright Hartgen said.

House lawmakers still need to sign off on the amendments, which removed the legislation out from under the female genital mutilation statute.

Gov. Brad Little may sign the bill, let it pass into law without action or veto it. While it cleared the House with a veto-proof majority, it fell two votes short in the Senate.

If implemented, criminal penalties will begin Jan. 1, 2024.

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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