INDIANAPOLIS – Republican governors in Indiana and Idaho have signed into law bills banning gender-affirming care for minors, making those states the latest to restrict transgender health care as Republican-led legislatures continue to curb LGBTQ+ rights this year.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation Wednesday that will prohibit transgender youth from accessing medication or surgeries that aid in transition and mandate those currently taking medication to stop by the end of the year.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little had signed legislation Tuesday evening that criminalizes gender-affirming care for youth.
More than a dozen other states are considering bills that would prohibit transgender youth from accessing hormone therapies, puberty blockers and transition surgeries, even after the approval of parents and the advice of doctors. Other proposals target transgender individuals’ everyday life — including sports, workplaces and schools.
“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.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit rapidly after Holcomb signed the Indiana legislation — something the group had promised to do after Republican supermajorities advanced the ban this session. The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced Wednesday it also planned to sue over that state’s new law.
The Indiana ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of four transgender youth and an Indiana doctor who provides transgender medical treatment. It argues the ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection guarantees as well as federal laws regarding essential medical services.
“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.”
Under the Indiana law that takes effect July 1, doctors who offer gender-affirming care to minors would be disciplined by a licensing board. And under the Idaho law set to go into effect next January, providing hormones, puberty blockers or other gender-affirming care to people under age 18 would be a felony crime.
“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.”
Supporters of the legislation have contended the banned care is irreversible or carries side effects. They argue that only an adult — and not a minor’s parent — can consent to the treatments.
But opponents say such care is vital and often life-saving for trans kids, and medical providers say most of the procedures are reversible and safe. Transgender medical treatments for children and teens have also been available in the U.S. for more than a decade and are endorsed by major medical associations.
“When I started hormone therapy, it made me feel so much better about myself,” said Jessica Wayner, 16, at an Indiana House public health committee hearing last month.
At least 13 states have laws banning gender-affirming care for minors: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota and West Virginia. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of Alabama and Arkansas’ laws.
The GOP-led Kansas Legislature on Wednesday also overrode Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s sports from kindergarten through college.
Nineteen other states have imposed restrictions on transgender athletes, most recently Wyoming.
The Arkansas Senate also sent a bill Wednesday to Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders that would require parental approval for Arkansas teachers to address transgender students using their preferred name and pronouns. It also would prohibit schools from requiring teachers to use the pronouns or name a student uses.
In some states where Democrats control the legislature, lawmakers are enshrining access to gender-affirming health care. Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill Wednesday that protects providers of gender-affirming health care against potential civil and criminal prosecution.
Dr. Molly McClain, who provides gender-affirming health care to patients of all ages, said the new legislation sends a message to people exploring their identity in ways that may not conform to gender norms.
“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.
Associated Press writers contributed to this report — Tom Davies in Indianapolis; John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho.
Arleigh Rodgers is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/arleighrodgers