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Idaho Senate blocks bill that would punish parents of trans kids with life in prison

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An Idaho bill that would have criminalized a parent’s decision to allow their transgender child to receive gender-affirming medical treatment died at the hands of the state Senate’s Republican conference after a national outcry.

In a statement, Idaho Senate Republicans said they oppose gender reassignment surgery for minors but that the bill interferes with a parent’s right to make medical decisions for their own children.

“We believe in parents’ rights and that the best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents, with the benefit of their physician’s advice and expertise,” the senators said in the statement.

The Idaho House of Representatives earlier in March passed HB 675, Genital Mutilation of a Child, to make it a crime punishable by life in prison for a parent to seek out gender-affirming health care for their transgender child.

The bill is among 29 pieces of Republican-backed legislation nationwide proposed so far this year to curtail health care for transgender youth, including Utah’s HB127 sponsored by financial advisor Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, which didn’t progress beyond being introduced. Dozens of additional bills in the country are seeking to limit what can be discussed about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools and restrict transgender athletes in school sports. 

But LGBTQ advocates and legal experts say the Idaho proposal differs by criminalizing cases of transgender children traveling to other states to obtain certain medical procedures.

“We are seeing the severity of those policies start to really ramp up,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that focuses on preventing suicide in the LGBTQ population.

The bill would have banned puberty-blocking treatment, hormone therapy, and gender confirmation surgery and made it a felony if parents or doctors provide it. But it would also make it a felony to take a child out of state to get the healthcare recommended by every major medical authority in the country. The sentence would have been life in prison and the removal of the children from the home.

The law also stipulated that the hormone testosterone could only be provided to people who were born male.

Gender reassignment surgeries for children are rare, a family practice physician told the Idaho Statesman. The Idaho Medical Association and the broader American Medical Association oppose legislation, such as Skaug’s bill, that restricts access to health care for transgender people.

But GOP-led legislatures around the country have used the claim to spark fear and misinform voters into supporting anti-transgender laws and to win elections.

“If we do not allow minors to get tattoos, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol or sign legal contracts,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Bruce Skaug, said, “why would we allow them to make decisions to cut away organs based on their feelings during puberty time?”

At no point are middle school students allowed to make their own medical decisions.

On March 2, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance stating that the Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA or Obamacare) forbids states from restricting medical care based on a person’s gender identity or sex assigned at birth.

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