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ACLU of Idaho says it will sue to halt transgender healthcare ban

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

The ACLU of Idaho said it will sue the state to halt the implementation of a law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“This discriminatory law criminalizes safe, effective, and necessary healthcare for Idaho youth,” said Leo Morales, ACLU of Idaho’s executive director, in a statement released Wednesday.

“…for lawmakers to interfere in decisions that ought to be made by families and their healthcare providers is clear government overreach and is unacceptable.”

Gender-affirming care is effective at treating depression and suicidality caused by gender dysphoria according to multiple studies and surveys of the transgender community, which is already at high risk for such conditions.

The statement comes less than a day after Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 71 into law, which makes it a felony for a health care provider to prescribe puberty blockers, hormone therapy or perform gender-confirmation surgery on any transgender person under 18.

Such surgeries are not performed on minors in Idaho – something the bill’s sponsors admitted during public hearings and debates.

If convicted, anyone who violates the law could spend up to 10 years in prison.

Little wrote Tuesday in a letter explaining his decision to sign the bill, “…society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies.”

“However, as policymakers we should take great caution whenever we consider allowing the government to interfere with loving parents and their decisions about what is best for their children,” Little wrote.

The ACLU of Idaho asked for anyone who would be affected by this law to reach out so the legal advocacy group may represent them in court.

It’s set to take effect Jan. 1, 2024 barring any court action.

Idaho is the 14th state in the country to pass such a health care ban, with many more considering them according to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBTQ organization. Courts have blocked such laws in Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, the group said.

Idaho has tried to outlaw these types of care since at least 2020. Earlier versions of the legislation could’ve levied sentences of up to life in prison on health care providers who violated them.

Supporters of the law have rallied behind the message that gender-affirming care permanently sterilizes minors who are too young to consent to the treatment – even with parental permission.

Puberty blockers are largely reversible, though hormone therapy can reduce a person’s fertility or have other permanent physical side effects.

Major industry groups representing hundreds of thousands of physicians, psychologists and other providers endorse these treatments as safe and effective.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call or text 988 to reach the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

James Dawson joined Boise State Public Radio as the organization's News Director in 2017. He oversees the station's award-winning news department. Most recently, he covered state politics and government for Delaware Public Media since the station first began broadcasting in 2012 as the country's newest NPR affiliate. Those reports spanned two governors, three sessions of the Delaware General Assembly, and three consequential elections. His work has been featured on All Things Considered and NPR's newscast division. An Idaho native from north of the time zone bridge, James previously served as the public affairs reporter and interim news director for the commercial radio network Inland Northwest Broadcasting. His reporting experience included state and local government, arts and culture, crime, and agriculture. He's a proud University of Idaho graduate with a bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. When he's not in the office, you can find James fly fishing, buffing up on his photography or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.