The Idaho State House of Representatives has approved the most far-reaching bill yet to criminalize medical treatment for transgender youth, a move that threatens anyone who facilitates such treatment — or even aids a minor to travel to another state to receive gender-affirming care – to be sentenced to life in prison.
The measure, approved Tuesday in a largely partisan vote, adds medical care for transgender youth to a section of Idaho law already in effect that prohibits female genital mutilation.
It adds language that makes it a crime to either perform gender-affirming surgery on young transgender people or provide drugs intended to block or delay the onset of puberty.
Existing law already makes it a crime to take a child from Idaho to another state for the purpose of female genital mutilation; the new wording would add transporting a person across state lines for gender-affirming medical care to the list of crimes.
Similarly, the new wording would make providing gender-affirming medical care or transporting a child to another state to receive that care a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
“This bill aims to protect children, which is a legitimate interest of the state. We do this all the time,” the bill’s lead sponsor, State Rep. Bruce Skaug (R), said on the House floor. “We must stop sterilizing and mutilating children under 18. This bill is not about adults or the adult trans community at all. These are children.
Skaug compared transgender medical treatment to allowing children to get tattoos or drink alcohol.
But transgender rights advocates point to specific provisions that include drugs intended to block or delay puberty as proof that the bill goes far beyond a ban on surgery. According to a recent study, trans children are at a much higher risk of suicide and suicidal ideation than cisgender children – a risk that can be significantly reduced through gender-affirming healthcare.
Groups like the American Psychiatric Association, American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics have opposed less sweeping measures that have been introduced in other states in recent months.
“These bills do nothing to invest in and protect Idaho’s youth and families, and Idahoans deserve better,” said Chase Strangio, associate director of transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Criminalizing health care for transgender teens goes against science, medicine and ethics and we stand ready to fight any attack on transgender youth and their families.”
A Republican, State Representative Fred Wood (R) – the only doctor serving in the State House – voted with Democrats against the bill.
The bill moves to the state Senate, where Republicans also hold an overwhelming majority. But the Idaho State Senate, considered the more centrist of the two legislative bodies, has clashed with the House often in recent years, making its passage far from certain.
The state Senate passed a bill to end this year’s session on Friday, March 25.
The Idaho bill is one of dozens of measures related to transgender youth that have been introduced in Republican-led legislatures across the country this year, and 25 that specifically target medical treatment for transgender people. Legislators in Tennessee, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky and New Hampshire are all considering several healthcare-related bills transgender.
It is not certain that these measures will stand up to scrutiny. The ACLU’s Strangio pointed to an Arkansas law that was blocked by a judge earlier this year. Last week, a Texas judge suspended a state agency’s decision to investigate the mother of a transgender girl under orders from the governor. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottWhere have you gone, Laura Bush? O’Rourke says Texas oil tycoon is suing him for defamation Judge halts Texas efforts to investigate gender-affirming care for trans children (R).