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Iowa bill would criminalize medical treatment of transgender youth because they will “outgrow” it

A young person looking forlorn outdoors.
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Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon (R) has introduced one of the nation’s most egregious pieces of anti-transgender legislation so far this year – and with the numerous attacks already launched on trans youth, that’s a dubious distinction.

Salmon’s bill would make it illegal for medical professionals to treat transgender youth as medically necessary, saying they will “outgrow” it.

Related: Montana advances bill to ban transgender girls from competing in school sports

Treating the youth as recommended by major medical associations could cost a doctor their license and fines of $1,000.

The bill’s author claims that after puberty, trans youth “will eventually have a gender identity that aligns with their sex.”

Children do express their gender freely, but therapists and doctors don’t diagnose gender dysphoria unless the child has repeatedly reiterated that they identify differently and have shown emotional distress. Puberty blockers are a hormonal treatment that delays the onset of puberty – and therefore secondary sex characteristics – so that transgender youth and their parents and doctors can have more time to decide on an appropriate medical treatment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2018 that affirmed the use of puberty blockers as part of a care model for young people with gender dysphoria.

A study published last year found that transgender people who wanted puberty blockers and got them were far less likely to have suicidal thoughts later on in life than transgender people who wanted them but didn’t get them.

“When we say something is standard of care in medicine, that means we have data,” Dr. Larson Ode, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, told local news. “We are very clear when we’re experimenting on people and transgender care for children is not experimental. It’s standard of care and it’s standard of care for all our major societies.”

Last year, a court in the U.K. ruled against gender affirming care for transgender youth as well, but used the opposite reasoning: because transgender teens who get puberty blockers almost always grow up to be transgender adults, the court said that puberty blockers might be turning teens trans and argued that it’s a possible danger of the treatment.

A similar bill has been filed in Texas. State Rep. Steve Toth (R) has filed H.B. 68, a bill that would make it illegal to give a transgender child or teenager proper medical care.

Instead, the proposed law would classify it as “child abuse” and could land a doctor in prison for treating his patient as recommended by every major medical association. The professional could also lose their license to practice medicine.

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