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Idaho bill to criminalize health care for transgender minors heads to House

Ryan Suppe, Idaho Statesman on

Published in News & Features

BOISE, Idaho — Dr. Neil Ragan, a family physician in Pocatello, told lawmakers Tuesday that his gender-affirming care has saved lives.

Transgender patients, who received gender-affirming treatment as minors, later told him they would have killed themselves if they hadn’t received it, Ragan said, during a hearing on a bill that would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors.

“Give parents, physicians and behavioral health specialists and patients the space that we all need to provide evidence-based care for our patients,” Ragan said.

The committee approved the bill on a party-line vote after hours of tense public testimony. Sponsored by Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, and the Idaho Family Policy Center, a religious lobbying group, the legislation would make it a felony for medical providers to offer puberty blockers, hormone therapies and transition-related surgeries to minors — treatment that transgender people, their family and friends said can be life-saving.

Supporters of the bill said gender-affirming care makes irreparable changes to a child’s development.

“We do not allow minors to get tattoos, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, sign legal documents,” Skaug said. “Why would we allow them to make decisions to cut away healthy bodily organs and to start down the road to chemical castration at age 12?”


Medical experts offer conflicting testimony

Two Statehouse rooms were needed to accommodate the people hoping to testify and watch Tuesday’s hearing on Skaug’s bill.

Several parents with transgender children and several doctors spoke against the bill, although medical experts were divided over the issue and offered conflicting testimony.

Dr. Brandon Mickelsen, a family doctor from Pocatello and president of the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, an 800-member nonprofit advocacy group, urged the committee to oppose the legislation, because it would remove doctors’ options to care for transgender minors experiencing “severe pain.”


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