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Idaho governor signs bill banning transition care for minors

The state’s Vulnerable Child Protective Act is among more than a dozen laws across the U.S. restricting gender-affirming care for trans youths.
Protesters gather in front of the Idaho Statehouse in opposition to anti-transgender legislation on Feb. 24, 2023, in Boise.
Protesters gather in front of the Idaho Statehouse in Boise in opposition to legislation targeting transgender youths on Feb. 24. Darin Oswald / Idaho Statesman via AP file

Idaho has joined a dozen states across the country in banning or restricting transition-related care for minors.

The state’s governor, Brad Little, a Republican, signed the Vulnerable Child Protective Act into law Tuesday evening. The measure prohibits transgender people under 18 from accessing puberty blockers and hormones. It also prevents them from undergoing transition-related surgery, though there is no evidence to suggest minors are getting this type of surgery in Idaho, according to NBC affiliate KTVB of Boise. 

“In signing this bill, I recognize our society plays a role in protecting minors from surgeries or treatments that can irreversibly damage their healthy bodies,” Little wrote in a letter to Idaho’s House speaker. “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.”

Medical practitioners who violate the law, which takes effect Jan. 1, could be charged with a felony and spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted. 

Critics of the law say it amounts to government overreach and will end up harming, not helping, the state’s transgender youths. 

“We are heartbroken for the families of Idaho today. We are watching parental rights being dismantled in the name of stigmatizing and harming our most vulnerable youth,” Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Add the Words, Idaho, said in a statement.

Most forms of gender-affirming care for minors are supported by the nation’s top medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association. Surgery, however, is not typically recommended for people under 18, according to guidance from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Idaho’s Vulnerable Child Protective Act is part of a broader effort among conservative lawmakers throughout the country to restrict the rights of LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender people. So far this year, more than 400 such proposals have been filed in state legislatures, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.