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Idaho’s House Bill 71 would make it harder for parents to give children the best chance to thrive

Neil Ragan Jessie Duvall - FEBRUARY 28, 2023

Being a parent is hard. Everyone can agree on that. Every day we, as health care providers, bear witness to parents dealing with really hard things, trying to do the best they can for their kids. Everyone wants their kids to be happy, to contribute meaningfully to their family and community, and to thrive. That’s what we want for our own kids. And we became providers who care for kids because we want that for all children.

House Bill 71 would make it harder for parents to give their children the best chance to thrive. This bill targets transgender youth and their families by taking away their right to evidence-based, life-saving health care. It doesn’t help kids. It doesn’t help parents. And it doesn’t help our community.

Medically and socially, there is no one way to treat a transgender kid. The path every family chooses is different. It is a highly individualized, months- to yearslong process that begins with getting to know the child, the caregivers, and their hopes for the future.

Gender affirming care is about how we talk to our patients. It’s honoring someone’s whole self while recognizing the inherent risk of not feeling at home in one’s own body. This care is long term. Decisions are made slowly and revisited frequently. We know families who have chosen to do no medical treatments because that’s the right thing for them. We also know kids who would not be alive without the medical treatment they’re receiving right now.

When used, medical treatment often begins with puberty blockers. These drugs are well studied. We know they are safe, reversible and do not cause infertility. They are a “pause” that gives families more time to decide on the best course of treatment for their child. Sometimes that course involves starting hormones. Sometimes it means focusing on transitioning socially. What it doesn’t include is surgery. In Idaho, like much of the world, treatment of gender dysphoria in minors never involves surgery – this is not the standard of care.

We know that this thoughtful, individualized care reduces depression and suicide. This is why all the major medical societies in America and Idaho support evidence-based, comprehensive gender affirming care.

House Bill 71 criminalizes doctors for doing our job, providing our patients with the standard of care. If doctors have to choose between failing their patients and going to jail, they will leave Idaho and we will not be able to replace them. And this won’t just impact trans children. The doctors who provide gender affirming care are the same doctors who provide care for Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders and urological problems. They are also the doctors who provide primary care in rural places.

House Bill 71 sets a precedent that complex, highly personal medical decisions can be legislated. That the government knows kids better than their parents do. This is not the Idaho we know and love.

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