OPINION: Banning access to gender-affirming care can have devastating consequences

protestor holds a sign reading protect trans people
Photo courtesy of Andrej Ivanov

Despite numerous phone calls pleading for a veto on the bill, Idaho Gov. Brad Little chose to sign on House Bill 71.

House Bill 71 takes effect Jan. 1, 2024, and will stand as a block for transgender youth in accessing puberty blockers, hormones and other gender-affirming surgeries in Idaho. It will also make providing those medical treatments a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Within the last year, there have been multiple attempts to ban and criminalize gender-affirming treatments for transgender and nonbinary youth under 18 throughout the nation.

According to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, 2022 was a record-breaking year for this type of legislation.

Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah have all passed laws or policies that restrict gender-affirming care for minors. 

ABC News states that along with this, 19 other states are considering or have introduced bills that would similarly restrict this kind of medical care for trans youth.

According to the World Health Organization, gender-affirming care encompasses a range of social, psychological and medical interventions designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity when it conflicts with the gender they were assigned at birth. 

protestor holds a sign reading protect trans people
[Protestor holds sign that reads, “Protect Trans People.”]
Photo courtesy of Andrej Ivanov

This could include things like hormone therapy, puberty blockers, speech therapy, psychiatric services and primary care.

Having access to gender-affirming care is incredibly important for those who need it, especially for young people.

The Association of American Medical Colleges states that many studies have found that transgender youth are more likely to suffer from emotional distress and depression compared to others their age. 

They are also are more likely to experience bullying and other forms of violence, and to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

In an article by Timothy Smith of the American Medical Association, he explains a study in which  researchers investigated changes in mental health over the first 12 months of receiving gender-affirming care. 

More specifically, these researchers were curious in examining the changes in depression, anxiety and suicidality in association with starting puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones.

The results showed that out of 100 transgender and nonbinary youth, those who received gender-affirming medications had a 60% lower odds of moderate or severe depression and 73% lower odds of suicidality over those first 12 months, compared with youth who did not get those medications.

Mistie DelliCarpini-Tolman, Idaho director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, says that Gov. Little’s decision to sign the bill into law ignores evidence from multiple medical authorities asserting that gender-affirming care is essential for some youth.

She’s not alone in her stance against this bill’s passing.

Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea said in a press release that Gov. Little’s decision criminalizes treatments proven to reduce suicidality, anxiety and depression among transgender youth.

“This legislation harms our vulnerable kids the most,” Necochea said. “It also hurts entire communities. Our friends and neighbors will be driven out of state. The continued criminalization of standard care endorsed by major medical associations will push more doctors to leave Idaho.”

Gender-affirming care saves lives, and criminalizing it will only endanger the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth. 

Banning the right for parents to allow their children to receive this care and criminalizing medical professionals for doing their jobs is atrocious.

I hope that from legal challenges, the law is overturned before it is able to take effect next year, as this bill will do more harm than it ever would good.

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