Gender-affirming Health Care Has Been Banned in Indiana and Idaho

Indiana and Idaho, both of which are led by Republican governors, have recently joined other states in restricting transgender health care by passing measures limiting gender-affirming care for minors.

On Wednesday, Governor Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law that will prevent transgender minors in Indiana from obtaining hormone therapy or other medical procedures designed to facilitate their gender transition.

On Tuesday night, Gov. Brad Little of Idaho signed a bill criminalizing juvenile gender-affirming care. More than a dozen additional states are exploring legislation that would make it illegal for transgender minors to get hormone therapy, puberty-blocking medication, or transition surgery, even with parental consent and medical recommendation.

Some ideas focus on transgender people in their day-to-day activities, such as sports, the workplace, and educational settings. “Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor,” Holcomb said in a statement about the Indiana bill.

 Idaho Governors Sign Bans on Gender-affirming Care
Idaho Governors Sign Bans on Gender-affirming Care

Once Republican supermajorities advanced the prohibition this year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana swiftly launched a lawsuit after Holcomb signed the Indiana Act. On Wednesday, the Idaho chapter of the ACLU announced its intention to suit over the state’s new law.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the claim on behalf of four transgender minors and a transgender-friendly doctor in Indiana. It claims the prohibition goes against the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws protecting access to basic healthcare.

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“The legislature did not ban the various treatments that are outlined,” said Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana legal director. “It only banned it for transgender persons.” Doctors in Indiana who provide transgender care to children will face disciplinary action once a new legislation takes effect on July 1.

And under the Idaho law that will take effect in January, it will be a criminal to provide hormones, puberty blockers, or other gender-affirming care to anybody under the age of 18. “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.

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.”

Proponents of the measure have argued that the prohibited care is permanent or has negative side effects. They claim that only a legally competent adult, and not the minor’s parent, can give permission for medical treatment.

Opponents, however, argue that this kind of care is essential and, in many cases, life-saving for trans children, and medical professionals assure us that most of these procedures are safe and reversible. Major medical organizations in the United States have supported the availability of transgender medical therapies for children and adolescents for more than a decade.

At a hearing held by the Indiana House public health committee last month, 16-year-old Jessica Wayner testified that she felt “so much better about myself” after beginning hormone therapy. A total of 13 states have passed legislation prohibiting minors from receiving gender-affirming care: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

Federal justices have halted the implementation of state laws in Alabama and Arkansas. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Republican-led Kansas House overrode Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill that would have barred transgender athletes from participating in girls’ and women’s sports at all levels, from elementary school to university.

Wyoming joins nineteen other states that have banned transgender people from participating in sports. A bill requiring parental permission for teachers to recognize transgender pupils by their preferred name and pronouns was also handed to Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday.

It would also forbid institutions from insisting that educators address a student by their preferred pronouns or name. Access to gender-affirming health treatment is being codified by legislators in some places where Democrats control the legislature.

On Wednesday, Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that shields medical professionals who give care based on a patient’s identified gender from potential legal and criminal liability. According to Dr. Molly McClain, who treats patients of all ages with gender-affirming care, the new legislation sends a message to those who are unsure of their gender identity.

“It says you are seen, you are safe, you are precious, and your access to health care will be protected here,” said McClain, who teaches medicine at the University of New Mexico. “I think that that sends a huge message to trainees” in the medical field.

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