New law makes it a crime in Idaho to provide gender-affirming care to transgender youth

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law April 4 after receiving thousands of messages in support

By: - April 4, 2023 9:24 pm
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech

Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes it a felony to provide certain types of medical care to children and teens. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

House Bill 71 criminalizes gender-affirming health care for youth who have gender dysphoria. The bill specifically bans puberty blockers and hormones for patients under age 18. It also bans surgeries, which already do not fall within Idaho’s standard of care for transgender youth and are not performed in Idaho.

The law makes it a felony to provide the medical care, with a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

“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. 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 said in his transmittal letter.

“This bill is aptly named the Vulnerable Child Protection Act because it seeks to protect children with gender dysphoria from medical and surgical interventions that can cause permanent damage to their bodies before they are mature enough to make such serious health decisions,” he wrote in the letter.

Idaho governor gets thousands of calls urging action on transgender health care bill

As the bill made its way through the Idaho Legislature, health care providers and transgender youth and their parents noted that withholding gender-affirming care also causes permanent changes: a child’s body goes through puberty.

Those changes can amplify the distress caused by gender dysphoria, they said.

The governor’s office was inundated with calls, emails and letters from people in support of the bill. Fewer messages came in opposing it.

Little received more than 14,800 emails and calls in favor of the bill as of Tuesday morning, and more than 6,500 calls and emails urging him to veto it, according to his press secretary. Of that number, 3,200 were phone calls in favor of the bill and 1,500 were phone calls against the bill and urging the governor to veto it.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify the law’s effective date.


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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.