BOISE — After emotional debate, the House voted on a near party-line vote to pass a bill Tuesday that would make it a felony to provide most transgender treatment to youth under 18. Rep. Matt Bundy, R-Mountain Home, was the only Republican to vote against it.
HB 71’s sponsor, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, said the legislation is “about protecting children.” The bill’s opponents said it would harm transgender children by preventing them from receiving treatment that’s recommended by many major medical associations.
Skaug argued that common treatments for gender dysphoria — including sex reassignment surgery, puberty blockers and hormone therapy — could sterilize adolescents if used for long periods of time.
“Why would we allow them, in this tender state of mind that is under 18, to make decisions on having healthy body organs removed? And really a lot of this is based on what the child’s feelings and thoughts are that are going forward on these procedures,” Skaug said. “That’s the wrong way to approach it scientifically.”
Skaug passed similar legislation through the House last year by a similar margin, but it died in the Senate.
Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, said the content of HB 71 was inconsistent with his family’s experience with his transgender sibling.\
“The surgeries that are put forth there are not something that I saw in the standard of care for my own sibling,” Nash said. “Largely, that care is helping the child feel understood and accepted and helping them to a place where they can safely make these decisions on their own.”
The Democrats who debated against the bill made the argument that the sex reassignment surgeries that the bill bans are not being performed on children in Idaho. Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, said in the two years he’s been looking into the issue, he hasn’t found a provider in the state who has performed surgery to treat gender dysphoria.
“It doesn’t happen here,” Mathias said.
He argued the bill would not only take away the hormone and puberty blocker treatment that is recommended by most major medical societies — including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society — but it would disincentivize physicians from practicing in Idaho.
“Our increasing tendency to criminalize standard medical practices is driving health care providers away from Idaho,” Mathias said. “We need to be drawing them to Idaho. This bill directly undermines policy and other investments that we’ve made in increasing the number of medical residencies here in Idaho so that we have a pipeline of people to treat us ... it’s bad for all of us.”
He and others who opposed the bill also argued it took away parental rights, something that’s usually held in high regard in the Idaho Legislature.
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, said she is a strong supporter of parents’ rights to direct the “care, custody and upbringing” of their child, but that has limits; she pointed to laws against child abuse.
“There is no one else that is better suited to make a decision about what is right for a particular child than the parent,” Young said, “and I support that principle whole-heartedly. I also believe that there are circumstances where even a parent does not have authority.”