Lawmakers in Idaho Tuesday advanced a bill that would criminalize providing gender-affirming medical care to minors — the latest in a series of moves by conservative-leaning states to further restrict the rights of transgender individuals.
Under the proposed law — which amends a previous ban on female genital mutilation — knowingly providing a transgender child any form of transition-related treatment, including hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery, would qualify as a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Additionally, any individual who “knowingly removes or causes, permits, or facilitates the removal of a child from [the] state for the purpose of” obtaining such medical care would also be charged with a felony — effectively barring parents from seeking out-of-state treatment options for their transgender children.
“If we do not allow minors to get a tattoo, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, why would you allow them to go through these physical mutilations because of their feelings at the time?” Rep. Bruce Skaug, a Nampa, Id. Republican who sponsored the bill, told Idaho’s House State Affairs Committee. “Our world is changing, and not in a good way.”
News of the bill’s advancement led to backlash on social media from numerous members of the LGBTQ community. “These anti-trans & anti-gay laws are killing us,” transgender activist and singer Plastic Martyr wrote on Twitter in response to the bill. “It’s like ripping off a butterfly’s wings because it was ‘born a caterpillar.’ You’re sadistic. Let us fly.”
The bill follows a recent series of legislative moves in Idaho targeting LGBTQ individuals. On Monday, lawmakers voted 51-14 to pass a bill that “would remove an exemption that protects libraries, schools, museums, colleges and universities and their employees for ‘disseminating material that is harmful to minors,'” according to the Idaho Capital Sun — a move which critics claim runs the risk of being applied too broadly, as the bill lacks any cohesive set of guidelines to determine what types of material would be deemed “harmful.” Parents who support the measure have openly denounced material with LGBTQ content or characters in recent public hearings, with one mother claiming that her “daughter’s innocence was violated” by the presence of LGBTQ-themed children’s books at a local library.
In March 2020, Idaho became the first state to pass a law banning transgender women from playing on school-sponsored women’s sports teams. (The so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” — which is currently on hold due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by a transgender Boise State University student and a cisgender athlete who fears possible invasive testing to prove her biological sex — does not contain provisions restricting transgender male athletes from joining male sports teams.) The state also enacted legislation that month that prohibits transgender individuals from changing the gender on their birth certificates.
Idaho’s move politicize medical treatment for transgender youth follows similar efforts taking place across the country. In February, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to begin investigating instances of gender-affirming care for children, calling such medical treatment “abusive procedures” and threatening criminal penalties for individuals who would refuse to comply with mandated reporting. Abbott’s directive prompted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, filed on behalf of a DFPS employee with a transgender teen and a Houston-based clinical psychologist with a history of providing treatment to transgender patients. The lawsuit led an Austin-area judge to grant a temporary restraining order against the provision, with a preliminary hearing on the matter set for Friday.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in Alabama advanced a pair of identical bills that would charge doctors who provide hormone treatment or prescribe puberty-blockers to children with a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. “We’re not supposed to be here substituting our judgment for the person that’s closest to that child,” Rep. Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa, told the Associated Press. “I personally believe that this legislation doesn’t protect children, it endangers them, and it also endangers their families.”
Last July, a federal judge temporarily blocked an Arkansas law from taking effect that also sought to prevent doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to minors. Lawmakers in the state passed the bill in April — the first of its kind in the U.S. — despite a veto from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “I do hope my veto will cause my Republican colleagues across the country to resist the temptation to put the state in the middle of every decision made by parents and health care professionals,” Hutchinson said in a statement released after the vote. Tennessee also passed a similar law in May, which bans medical providers from prescribing hormones to prepubescent children.