Gender-affirming care for minors bill sent for amendments
By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
After two hours of testimony on Friday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee moved to amend a bill to ban gender affirming care for minors in Idaho.
HB71, presented by Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, would ban the use of surgery, puberty blockers, and cross-hormone therapy for those younger than 18 who are experiencing gender dysphoria.
The committee heard from families of transgender teenagers who have benefited from the care, as well as transgender individuals themselves.
“I was born in Idaho. I was raised in Idaho. It’s the only place I’ve ever called home,” said Lynn Thomson, who said transitioning saved her life. “Our care is safe. Our care is necessary.”
“Idaho is my home, but it has not been a safe home for most of my life,” said Cole Kraut of Twin Falls.
The meeting included sometimes conflicting testimony from physicians.
Dr. Rod Story, a family physician in Moscow, testified that hormones can cause bone loss, depression, and infertility in cancer patients, and transgender patients who have undergone surgical treatment often experience painful healing processes and sexual dysfunction. And Dr. Katherine Aberle, a Coeur d’Alene ear, nose, and throat surgeon, said her colleagues at her former practice performed gender affirming surgeries on patients who later suffered after those treatments.
“I saw the pain in their eyes,” she said. “It was unmistakable.”
But Dr. Kara Saperston, a pediatric urologist with clinics in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Boise, and Fruitland, said banning puberty blockers goes too far.
“Hormone blockade is completely reversible, one hundred percent, in children,” Saperston told the committee. Cross-gender hormones can have semi-permanent effects, particularly in trans women who may see lower sperm counts if they stop taking estrogen, Saperston said. However, some trans individuals, including Idahoans, have successfully stopped taking cross-gender hormones, become pregnant or impregnated their partners, and gone back on hormones.
Saperston also said children must begin puberty and have extensive therapy before even starting conversations about puberty blockers and hormone therapy.
Dr. Neil Ragan, a family physician in Pocatello, said he cares for more adult transgender patients than he does adolescents, most of whom started transitioning after they turned 18.
“What I routinely hear from these adults is that they wish they’d had an opportunity to transition earlier,” Ragan said.
In her closing remarks, Den Hartog acknowledged how difficult the conversation is, and pointed out the bill doesn’t ban counseling.
“I think we’ve heard today how important that is,” Den Hartog said. “What we are saying is that under the age of 18, these things that can have long term, life-altering consequences, we’re saying you have to wait until you’re 18.”
Den Hartog said she supported amending the bill, including possibly removing the proposal from the section of code that deals with female genital mutilation. After discussion, the majority of senators ultimately agreed.
Sen. Linda Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, said she would rather hold the bill in committee, but would suggest removing most parts of the bill except the ban on surgery.
“Since this bill has come forward, I have talked to many, many parents and a few of the youth as well on this topic,” Hartgen said. “Their parents are like you and I. They’re normal. We’re all normal people. They didn’t ask for this. This is just something that has happened in their lives.”
Hartgen said parental choice is high on her priority list, and Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, agreed.
“Fundamentally, I think this is about parent care and control,” Wintrow said. “We find that sacrosanct, and parents know what’s best for their kids.”
“I’ve personally heard from four MDs who said they want regulation in this area,” said Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow.
If the bill is amended before passage in the Senate, the House would have to agree with any changes before it advances to the governor’s desk.