The new law was signed by Idaho Governor Brad Little and is known as the Vulnerable Child Protection Act. It states that healthcare professionals who knowingly perform operations or give children medications such as puberty blockers to “affirm the child’s perception of the child’s sex if that perception is inconsistent with the child’s biological sex” could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.
The law also explicitly lists surgeries that involve genital mutilation and sterilization that are banned in the state for those under the age of 18. These include phalloplasty, vaginoplasty and mastectomy. In addition, children may not be supplied with puberty blockers or any other type of medication that can cause infertility, even if it is temporary, or “profound morphologic changes.”
An exception will only be made for children who are born with a genetic disorder related to sex development that can be medically verified. This might include, for example, those who lack sex steroid hormone production or the traditional sex chromosome structure.
The bill was passed by the Idaho Senate in a 22-12 vote and passed the House in a 58-12 vote. It goes into effect on January 1, 2024.
In a statement to lawmakers, Governor Little wrote: “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.”
A similar bill was recently signed in Indiana by Republican Governor Eric Holcomb. Under the new legislation, which goes into effect on July 1, physicians and other healthcare providers who give minors "gender-affirming care" such as transitioning surgery, hormone therapy or puberty blockers will be subjected to discipline by regulatory boards.
In a statement, Holcomb expressed his belief that these medical interventions are only appropriate in adulthood given their irreversible nature but said that mental healthcare for such individuals could be useful.
“Permanent gender-changing surgeries with lifelong impacts and medically prescribed preparation for such a transition should occur as an adult, not as a minor. There has and will continue to be debate within the medical community about the best ways to provide physical and mental health care for adolescents who are struggling with their own gender identity, and it is important that we recognize and understand those struggles are real,” he noted.
Opponents claim that the bill, which is clearly aimed at protecting children, will cause them harm instead and may even increase suicide rates among teenagers. However, in the most comprehensive follow-up study that is currently available, extending across three decades in Sweden, a country known for supporting transgender people, the suicide rate of individuals who had subjected themselves to sex reassignment surgery climbed to 20 times that seen in comparable peers 10 to 15 years after their operation.
According to neurologists, the rational part of the human brain is not fully developed until around age 25. This means that teenagers are not in a good position to make highly risky and irreversible life-changing medical decisions that involve mutilating their bodies and damaging their chances of reproducing, potentially setting themselves up for a lifetime of regret. For those who are struggling to accept themselves, therapy can often provide relief without putting their life in danger.
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