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UPDATE: Trans youth healthcare bill 'will not proceed,' after several dozen Idahoans testified against it

Posted at 11:02 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 13:26:53-05

UPDATE (FEB. 26, 2020):

House Bill 465 to ban transgender youth healthcare will not proceed. The following was issued in a press release to 6 On Your Side:

“Representative Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell), chairman of the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration announced today that he will not schedule a vote on H465—a bill to outlaw gender reassignment for minors.

On February 26, 2020, the bill received a public hearing. Not all who signed up to testify were able to in the time available. Chairman Chaney announced that if he scheduled the bill for a vote, he would first schedule time for those who had signed up to testify to do so. As a result of his announcement that H465 would advance no further, Chairman Chaney also announced that he wouldn’t schedule the remainder of the public testimony, either, as it would be moot.

In a letter sent to the bill sponsor, Rep. Christy Zito, Chairman Chaney noted that while he agreed that allowing gender reassignment for minors was harmful and should be stopped, he also was moved by the sensitivity of the issue to those struggling with the issue.

“I found all of the 51 people who addressed the committee yesterday to be sincere and legitimately concerned for the welfare of our children,” Chaney wrote.
Chaney also noted other concerns, including: the criminal penalty proposed by the bill, the interference with current statute on female genital mutilation, and issues with litigation in federal court.”

It was a packed house Tuesday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for Idaho youth. According to the bill text, H.B. 465 "amends existing law to revise provisions regarding genital mutilation of a child, and [provides] that engaging in practices to change or affirm a child’s perception of the child’s sex is a felony."

Representative Christy Zito, R-Hammett, began her introduction of the bill by defending her intentions.

"I just want everyone here in this room to know that I approach this with nothing but feelings of love, and care, and concern for everyone in this room," said Zito.

Zito had hundreds of eyes on her at the public hearing for her proposal that would make it a crime for Idaho doctors to prescribe trans youth any hormones, puberty blockers, or gender confirmation surgeries. Today alone, about 45 people testified against her bill.

"This bill is saying that it's okay to murder children," said Mars Allen who testified against the bill. "You are responsible for that increased suicide."

Only five testified in favor.

"If a person who's not a minor chooses to do such a thing, that's one thing, but [minors are] emotionally immature and physically immature and I think we need to protect them," said Dr. Jud Miller, a retired health practitioner from Rexburg.

A topic commonly brought up was the risk of suicide in the absence of gender-affirming healthcare. According to a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 40% of transgender adults report having made a suicide attempt. A 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

"To teenagers who express gender dysphoria, this treatment gives them hope," said Dr. Ashley Davis, a family medicine doctor in Boise who provides hormone therapy.

"Puberty blockers can be stopped for any reason, and there is no permanent harm," said Dr. Davis. "This therapy gives all people the chance for happiness and a relief from anxiety."

Others disagreed, voicing concerns about any long-term physical effects of these treatments, like infertility.

Oliver Cowan, a transgender man and 8th generation Idahoan, testified in opposition. He says he transitioned in his early 20s.

"Before you can get treatment for any surgeries -- that being top surgeries or lower surgeries, anything like that -- you are required to have a letter from an established counselor stating you have gender dysphoria, and then also from a doctor saying you have gender dysphoria," said Cowan.

Those in favor of the bill brought up cases they'd read or heard about where people regret their decision to transition. This was not the case for Cowan.

"Absolutely I do not regret any part of my transition. My transition saved my life."

A rep from ACLU Idaho brought up Idaho's mass incarceration rate, arguing in opposition to the bill in part because it would create a new crime, punishing Idaho's gender-affirming doctors by up to life in prison.

After about 50 testimonies on the bill to ban transgender youth healthcare, Chairman Greg Chaney ended the hearing for the day. He said he wants to give more people the chance to testify, but said he will announce a schedule for considering a vote on the bill on Wednesday.

Tuesday's hearing was so full that they had to open two additional over-flow rooms to accommodate public interest.