Idaho bill to ban gender care for trans youth clears Senate, heads back to House

Idaho Senate passes amended version of bill to ban transgender health care

By: - March 27, 2023 3:15 pm
transgender flag illustration

Idaho's House Bill 71 would make it a felony for any medical practitioner to help a minor seek gender-affirming treatment. (Getty Images)

A bill that would criminalize gender-affirming care for transgender youth is headed back to the Idaho House of Representatives, who will have to pass it again before reaching Gov. Brad Little’s desk. 

On Monday, the Idaho Senate voted 22-12 to pass an amended version of House Bill 71 with all seven Democrats and five Republicans voting against it.  

Coined the “Vulnerable Child Protective Act” by its sponsors, the bill would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, including puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries. It would also make it a felony for any medical practitioner to help a minor seek gender-affirming treatment. 

The bill is headed to the House floor for a second time after the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee voted on adding amendments.

The House previously passed the bill in a 58-12 vote with all 11 Democrats in opposition. Mountain Home Rep. Matthew Bundy was the only Republican to vote against the bill in the House.

During the debate in the Senate, Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, spoke in favor of the bill. He said the desire to seek puberty blockers is a mental health issue, and he is concerned about the irreversibility of those medications.

“We keep hearing about you know, ‘Well, if you knew transgender people,’” he said. “Let me tell you as somebody with a mental health issue, I am darn glad that society did not tell me, ‘Yes, your mental health issue is right.’”

Opponents to bill talk mental health impact, pushing families out of Idaho

Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said House Bill 71 has been the “hardest bill” she has seen on the Senate floor. If passed, she said the bill would harm the mental health of transgender youth.

“I’ve heard a lot of discussion about irreversibility,” she said during the debate. “Puberty blockers are fully reversible … Parents will do what they have to do to save the life of their child.”

Wintrow said she has spoken with several physicians in the state and said the legislation would push physicians to move out of state out of fear of helping their patients. 

Sen. Linda Wright Hartgen, a Republican from Twin Falls, said during the debate that she has spoken to many of her constituents who have transgender children. One couple, she said, is on active military duty and wants to help their child find gender-affirming care. 

“They are deployed to go out and fight for our nation and fight for the freedom of other countries, and yet they have to fight the Idaho Legislature to find health care for their children,” she said.

Sen. James Ruchti, a Democrat from Pocatello, spoke against the bill and compared the legislation to historical policies that discriminated against minorities including Japanese Americans, Native Americans and the Chinese American community.

“We’re going to push families out of Idaho because they won’t feel like they have the support, medical or social, to raise their families here,” he said. “We could miss out on something really important … something that will be good for Idaho.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that five Republicans voted against the legislation.


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Mia Maldonado
Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international political economy.