By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would prohibit any gender-affirming medical care for transgender children.
The bill passed on a 58-12 vote after an hour of debate. Rep. Matt Bundy, R-Mountain Home, was the only Republican to vote against the bill, along with every Democrat.
The bill from Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, now moves to the Senate. He pitched a similar bill last year, but the Senate refused to hear it.
Skaug argued that all citizens have a fundamental right to procreation, and it was the state’s obligation to protect those rights. He also argued that while transgender people do have a high rate of suicide, there is no evidence that shows the rate is lower after having surgery.
Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, voted in favor of the bill because she’s opposed to juveniles having surgeries, but said she was torn on the issue.
“When I’m taking away the parents’ rights and we fight so desperately and we say parents have unalienable rights to make decisions for the children, but now, since we don’t understand or don’t like this topic we are going to say ‘No parents, I’m sorry, we are the Legislature and we know more, we know better what this child needs,’” McCann said. “And that bothers me greatly.”
This bill is nearly identical to one Skaug pitched last year, except the punishment would now be 10 years in prison, rather than life in prison, for practitioners who provide the medical care. It adds to an existing criminal section of Idaho code regarding female genital mutilation.
The genital mutilation section was added in 2019 in reference to ritualistic mutilations that some faiths perform on young girls, entirely unrelated to transgender people.
Skaug’s bill, the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act,” would prohibit surgeries for transgender children as well as the use of hormone-blocking medications, commonly referred to as puberty blockers, and a variety of other medications used for transgender therapies.
The therapies would be allowed for medically verifiable disorders.
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, supported the bill.
“It is the policy of the state of Idaho, a policy that I strongly support, that parents have a right to direct the care of a child,” Young said. “There is no one better suited to make a decision about what’s right for a particular child than a parent, and I support that principle wholeheartedly. I also believe there are circumstances where even a parent does not have the authority.”
She pointed to Idaho statutes that do not allow parents to abuse their child.
When the bill made it out of committee, members heard more than two hours of testimony. Some of that included testimony from transgender youth and their parents, as well as Idaho physicians in opposition to the bill.
Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, argued the legislation was contrary to the guidelines of all mainstream medical associations, which support gender-affirming care for children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is the diagnosed condition when a person’s experienced gender, or gender identity, does not match the gender associated with their biological sex at birth.
“These parents love their kids and want them to be able to live as their authentic selves,” Necochea said. “They also have fears about whether their kids will be accepted, included and what kind of a path they will have in life. So, I ask us not to make that path any harder.”
The bill must still be heard and passed in the Senate and earn the governor’s signaturebefore it can become law.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the 988 crisis line for help.
If you or someone you know is a member of the LBGTQ community and in need of help, visit the Trevor Project at thetrevorproject.org or call 1-866-488-7386.