Idaho approves bill to jail doctors for 10 years if they help trans youth

An arrested doctor, a stock image
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Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed one of the nation’s most punitive bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth yesterday, Idaho H.B. 71. The bill would make providing such care to a trans person under the age of 18 a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Only one other state — Alabama — has made it a felony to provide gender-affirming care. The other 11 states that ban such health care have imposed administrative penalties like the loss of a license.

The Idaho bill bans gender-affirming surgery from being performed on trans minors, though such surgeries aren’t performed on minors. The bill also bans doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy to people under the age of 18.

Puberty blockers are reversible and life-saving medications that delay the permanent effects of puberty so that young people and their families have more time to understand their identities. Puberty blockers don’t work if they’re taken years after the onset of puberty.

Little defended the bill as “protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies” in a letter sent to state legislators yesterday. The letter also said that “as policymakers, we should take great caution whenever we consider allowing the government to interfere with loving parents and their decisions about what is best for their children.”

Democrats said the bill should have been rejected for doing just that.

“Governor Little just signed away the rights of loving parents to access the medical care they choose for their children,” said Idaho Democratic Party Chair Rep. Lauren Necochea.

The anti-LGBTQ+ organization Idaho Family Policy Center pushed for the bill, saying that it passed because of “God’s good providence.”

Major medical professional groups like the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics support best practice gender-affirming care for trans youth, LGBTQ+ advocates pointed out.

“This bill goes against decades of expert guidance on best-practice transgender medical care and allows the government to override personal medical decisions made between patients, their doctors, and their parents,” said Kasey Suffredini of the Trevor Project. “Lawmakers should be prioritizing efforts to protect the health and well-being of Idaho’s young people – not passing laws to isolate trans and nonbinary youth further.”

A federal judge issued an injunction blocking Alabama’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors last year, and a judge blocked Arkansas’s ban in 2021, before it could go into effect.

This is the 18th anti-trans bill signed into law in the U.S. just this year, the 10th ban on gender-affirming care in the U.S., and the second anti-trans bill for Idaho. Idaho passed a bill banning trans students from using the correct restrooms in school in late March.

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