House Bill 675 will cause deep, irreparable harm to the Idaho families it claims to protect

Even the threat of denying transgender children adequate medical care can lead to heartbreaking consequences, write guest columnists Kelly Pennings and Daniel Flyyn

Idaho State Capitol

Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

We are long-time Idaho physicians writing on behalf of countless other medical providers in Idaho who are deeply concerned about the impact House Bill 675 will have on our patients. This bill would equate widely agreed upon standard medical practices with child abuse while endangering the lives of our young patients by denying them and their families gender affirming care.  

As physicians who care for children, our primary responsibility is to support the health and well-being of all young people. House Bill 675 will cause deep, irreparable harm to the  children and families it claims to protect.

Many studies have shown that denying anyone gender affirming care is damaging, regardless of their age. Depression and suicide rates are significantly higher among transgender and gender diverse youth that are denied access to gender affirming care. Even the threat of being denied adequate medical care can lead to heartbreaking consequences. Indeed, just since the recent introduction of House Bill 675, one of our colleagues has cared for three different transgender teenage patients, each admitted to the hospital after attempting suicide. They all cited this specific legislation as a major cause of their increased depression.

If passed, House Bill 675 will have a devastating impact on Idaho families. 

Gender affirming care means something different for every child and family. It values every person for who they are, involves a team of medical and mental health experts, and crucially, is always driven by the parents and the patient. Care options focus on helping a young person feel more comfortable in their body. And although people often think of hormones and surgery, the majority of gender affirming care focuses on mental health support, support for families and siblings, non-permanent appearance changes, and sometimes medications that safely and reversibly delay puberty.

All of these tools are important, safe and used differently for every family. Although each care plan is highly individualized, every treatment option has been thoroughly reviewed and agreed upon by all of the major national and international medical governing bodies like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, the Society of Pediatric Urology and the Pediatric Endocrine Society. For all providers who follow accepted standards of care, there is nothing controversial about gender affirming care. In truth, because the goal in health care is to provide individualized support to every single patient, all care we provide is gender and self-affirming. 

House Bill 675 undermines parental rights. By making it illegal to provide certain types of  accepted medical care to young people, politicians are taking away the rights of parents to decide what happens to their child. It infringes on parental choice, autonomy and privacy. It places the government in the exam room, sitting between the provider and the patient and, terrifyingly, between the parent and their child.

As a community, we would be outraged if the Legislature told us what to prescribe for cancer or heart disease. And we should be similarly disturbed by this overstep. Passing legislation that forces us, as doctors, to act against accepted medical guidelines and denies parents the right to decide what happens to their child runs counter to some of our most fundamental beliefs as Idahoans.  

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Kelly Pennings
Kelly Pennings

Dr. Kelly Pennings is a board certified family physician providing full-scope primary care to patients of all ages in Meridian, Idaho. Her interests include preventative care, reproductive health and adolescent medicine.

Daniel Flynn
Daniel Flynn

Dr. Daniel Flynn has been a pediatric endocrine provider for over 10 years. He practices in Boise and Twin Falls. He is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric endocrinology. He is the pediatric endocrine consultant for the Idaho Newborn Screening Program. He volunteers with Idaho’s diabetes camps. Flynn is an active clinical researcher in several ongoing studies.