Idaho on verge of becoming 8th state to outlaw puberty blockers and sex change surgery for under-18s

Idaho is poised to become the latest state to effectively ban hormone-warping drugs and surgery for trans youth with a new bill.

The majority-Republican state house voted overwhelmingly to make it illegal for healthcare providers to administer puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or gender-affirming surgeries to trans minors under 18. 

If it passes as expected it would make Idaho the eighth state to put legal restrictions on pharmaceutical interventions for young people with gender dysphoria. Federally, there is no age limit on when trans Americans can be given the drugs or surgeries.

The win for Idaho conservatives comes just after South Dakota Republicans led by Gov Kristi Noem approved the ‘Help Not Harm’ bill, which also banned the practices.

The Idaho bill is one of several bills in the state legislature that takes aim at LGBTQ+ rights. South Dakota and Utah have both enacted all out bans on gender transition healthcare

Idaho Gov Brad Little, a Republican, is a staunch opponent of transgender rights and can be expected to sign HB 71 into law in the event that it makes it through the state Senate

Idaho Gov Brad Little, a Republican, is a staunch opponent of transgender rights and can be expected to sign HB 71 into law in the event that it makes it through the state Senate

Idaho Gov Brad Little is an avowed opponent of healthcare that changes a person’s sex to better reflect their gender identity and can be expected to lend his support to the latest bill, known as House Bill 71.

He has advanced several bills that would curtail trans healthcare services, including one in 2020 that imposed a ban on transgender girls and women from competing in women’s sports and another that prohibited transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates.

In August 2020, a federal district judge swatted down Gov Little’s ban on changing the gender listed on one’s birth certificate.

House Bill 71 would impose steep penalties on anyone who provides under-18s with puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or gender affirmation surgeries. Violators would face up to 10 years in prison and be fined up to $5,000.

During floor debates on Tuesday, Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, the bill’s sponsor, equated gender transition healthcare with eugenics, the pharmaceutical opioid crisis, and ‘other things that were popular in medical circles … that now we know were evil, outright evil.’

Rep Skaug said: ‘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… That’s the wrong way to approach it scientifically.’

The bill’s future in the state senate remains unclear but the chamber’s makeup following the midterm elections signals a high probability of passage. 

While the total number of seats controlled by Republicans only grew by one, the ideological makeup shifted further towards the right, especially in the state Senate.

The sea change brought about in the 2022 elections paves the way for similar proposals that chip away at so-called ‘wokeness’ to make it past the finish line.

Idaho is one of more than two dozen states pushing bans on gender-affirming care this year.

Just one state removed is South Dakota where the Republican-led state government ushered in a new law on Monday that blocks doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or hormone treatments to minors. 

Gov. Kristi Noem said the move was ‘protecting kids from harmful, permanent medical procedures’.

Last month, Utah outlawed sex change surgeries for anyone under 18 and said minors could only start hormone therapy if they had a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. 

Similar bans in Alabama and Arkansas have been blocked by the courts. 

Texas has banned the treatments for minors and in Florida, the Board of Medicine and the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine approved a ban on such care for trans youth last fall.

Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias of Boise warned about the bill’s effects on the pre-existing problem: ‘This bill is going to throw gasoline on that problem.’

Another Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, said the bill would encroach on parental rights, the same argument that defeated a similar measure in the Senate last year. She noted that Idaho allows parents to refuse medical treatment for their children based on their religious beliefs.

Rep Rubel said: ‘That has been permitted in the state of Idaho because of this deep, deep commitment to parental rights over children’s care no matter what – even if it kills the kid.’