Metro Weekly

Idaho Senate defeats transgender health care ban

Senate Republican Caucus criticizes House bill for infringing on parents' right to make medical decisions for their children.

Idaho State Capitol building – Photo: Tamanoeconomico, via Wikimedia.

The Idaho Senate has defeated a bill that would have criminalized a parent’s decision to allow their transgender child to receive gender-affirming medical care.

In a statement late Tuesday, Idaho Senate Republicans said they oppose gender confirmation surgery for minors but that the bill interferes with a parent’s right to medical decisions for their own children.

In that statement, the Senate Majority Caucus noted that the Idaho Medical Association informed the caucus that surgical interventions are “already outside the generally accepted standard of care and is not being done by physicians in Idaho,” further bolstering their decision not to pursue the bill.

“We believe in parents’ rights and that the best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents, with the benefit of their physician’s advice and expertise,” the statement said.

The Republican Senate Caucus also expressed reservations that the bill’s current language could be interpreted to ban medical interventions for non-transgender youth with highly specialized medical needs.

While the version sought to carve out an exemption for children with those needs, the exemption is limited to “verifiable genetic disorders.” Since many of those conditions cannot always be verified as a genetic disorder, the caucus said the proposal has “unintended consequences.”

The bill had previously passed the State House of Representatives on a nearly party-line vote last week. Under the bill, parents or medical providers who enabled minors to access gender-affirming medical treatments — not just surgery, but hormones and puberty blockers as well — could face up to a life sentence in prison. That sentence also would apply to instances in which an adult helped a child leave the state to seek treatment in another state.

The lone Republican in the House opposing the bill was State Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley), the only physician serving in the House, reports The Hill.

Although supporters of the bill, including its lead sponsor, State Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa), have cast the bill as a measure needed to “protect children,” even comparing it to restrictions preventing minors from drinking alcohol or obtaining tattoos, most mainstream medical groups, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have opposed similar legislation seeking to restrict the types of medical care available to minors. Some legal experts also questioned the constitutionality of the measure. 

During debate on the House floor, State Rep. Lauren Neocochea (D-Boise) said that she had heard of one Idaho doctor having to assist three separate transgender youth for suicide attempts since the bill was introduced, arguing that the mere introduction of the bill places incredible stress on youth already struggling with gender dysphoria and questions of identity.

Nearly two dozen identical bills have been introduced in a host of Republican-controlled legislatures this year, although none have yet passed. Although a bill has not passed in his state, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order calling on medical providers, state child welfare agencies, and teachers — as well as other Texans — to inform on fellow Texans to the government if they believe a youth has been accessing gender-affirming treatments.

Abbott based his order on a legal opinion offered by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who opined that allowing children to access gender-affirming treatments could be viewed as “child abuse” because it violates their constitutional right to procreate.

As a result of Abbott’s directive, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has launched at least nine separate investigations into families with transgender-identifying youth. But a state district judge last week issued an injunction blocking the state from enforcing the governor’s order while a lawsuit brought by one of the families being investigated — as well as a licensed psychologist who would be required to report the parents of transgender patients she treats under the order — makes its way through the courts.

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