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Idaho Governor Signs Bill Restricting Medical Intervention for Minors Who Express Gender Identity Issues

Providing a minor with gender dysphoria hormones or surgery in violation of the law is punishable by up to 10 years in prison

Governor Brad Little of Idaho signed into law a bill restricting the types of medical interventions that doctors can offer minors who identify as transgender.

Known as the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, the bill makes it a felony offense to provide hormones, puberty blockers or surgery to any person under the age of 18 who is believed to be suffering from gender dysphoria.

“In signing this bill, I recognize our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies,” said Little in an April 4 letter regarding his decision. “However, 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.”

The law, House Bill 71, goes into effect in January. Violation of the law is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Little’s office received over 14,800 calls and emails requesting that he sign the bill into law and 6,500 calls and emails opposing the bill.

Opponents of the bill cautioned that restricting the treatments offered to transgender-identifying youth would lead to an increase in mental health issues experienced by those minors, including a possible surge in suicides. 

House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, a Democrat, said lawmakers were playing a “dangerous game” because the bill was based on religious theology and that the policy violated the rights and freedoms of parents. 

“I urge you to put yourself in the shoes of these parents who are desperate, who are facing the possibility that their kid may not make it unless they get these medicines,” said Rubel.

“We heard a lot of concerns about how these medical treatments might harm or hurt many people who are suffering from gender dysphoria, but I didn’t hear one person in favor of this bill express any concern about people who suffer from gender dysphoria and commit suicide,” said Representative Steve Berch.

State Representative Brent Crane, the Republican who co-sponsored HB 71, cited Genesis 1:27 from the Bible during a debate on the Idaho House floor.

One of the most unloving things that you can do to an individual that is struggling in this area is to lie to them,” he said, per the Idaho Capital Sun

Crane and other supporters of HB 71 argue the bill protects children from potentially permanently altering their bodies and the long-term consequences of their decisions.

“House Bill 71 would ensure that Idaho’s children are free from a dangerous ideology that leads to higher rates of suicidal ideation, irreversible physical disabilities, and lifelong drug dependencies,” said the Idaho GOP in a statement on March 31. “Idaho’s hardworking men and women, the moms and dads that make our neighborhoods the envy of America, have consistently voiced their support for laws that protect children and ensure that valuable (and limited) medical resources are governed by responsible and safe protocols — rather than pseudoscience or ideology.”

The bill’s sponsor, Representative Bruce Skaug, said transgenderism is a “mental illness that needs to be treated” but that “old fashioned counseling, talk therapy” and “traditional psychology methods” were better-suited methods of supporting minors experiencing gender dysphoria. He also pointed to the international shift away from surgical or hormonal treatments offered to transgender-identifying children.

“Europe is pulling back from this type of procedure now because they’ve seen negative effects and there’s no positive mental health effect for children,” Skaug said, per ABC News. “We need to stop sterilizing and mutilating children under the age of 18.”

According to AP News, Idaho is the 12th state to limit the forms of medical intervention permitted in the treatment of minors who identify as transgender. Alabama is the only other state to ban puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries under felony penalty. 

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