Federal judge blocks Idaho gender-affirming transgender care ban


(IDAHO) — A federal judge has preliminarily blocked an Idaho law banning gender-affirming healthcare treatments for transgender people under 18 years old. The law was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, and would have made it a felony to provide such care.

District Court Judge Lynn Winmill ruled Wednesday that the law’s restrictions violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“Transgender children should receive equal treatment under the law,” Winmill stated in his decision. “Parents should have the right to make the most fundamental decisions about how to care for their children.”

He continued, “Time and again, these cases illustrate that the Fourteenth Amendment’s primary role is to protect disfavored minorities and preserve our fundamental rights from legislative overreach … and it is no less true for transgender children and their parents in the 21st Century.”

HB 71 was signed into law by Governor Brad Little in April. The law bans puberty blockers — which allow children to explore their gender identity and pause the growth of permanent sex characteristics — hormone therapies, as well as surgeries. Physicians interviewed by ABC News have said that surgeries on adolescents are rare and only considered on a case-by-case basis.

The legislation provides an exception for children with “medically verifiable genetic disorder of sex development,” also known as intersex.

Any medical professional convicted of providing such care could be convicted of a felony and imprisoned in the state prison for up to 10 years, according to the law’s text.

At least 20 states have implemented restrictions on access to gender-affirming care, many of which have faced legal challenges. The law in Arkansas, the first legislation of its kind in the U.S., was also ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Supporters of these restrictions argue that they protect children from “medically unnecessary interventions that result in irreparable infertility, chronic health problems, and mutilated reproductive organs,” stated conservative Christian lobbying group Idaho Family Policy Center in a press release following the signage of the bill.

The teenage plaintiffs at the center of this lawsuit, who would be impacted by the legislation, say that gender-affirming care has been vital to their mental health. It’s a sentiment that several studies have shared.

Transgender youth are more likely to experience anxiety, depressed mood, and suicidal ideation and attempts, often due to gender-related discrimination and gender dysphoria, according to the CDC. Gender-affirming hormone therapy has been proven to improve the mental health of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

One plaintiff said puberty blockers “had near immediate positive effects” on her. “By pausing the physical changes that were causing her depression and anxiety, her mental health greatly improved,” Winmill’s decision states.

The second plaintiff began taking puberty blockers after “several months of therapy, additional visits with her doctor, and lab work.” After a few months, she began taking low-dose hormone therapy, according to the filing.

“Since receiving gender-affirming medical care, Jane’s mental health has significantly improved, but the debate over HB 71 and other anti-transgender bills has affected her mental health and her grades,” read the filing, using a pseudonym for the plaintiff. “When the bill passed, Jane wept in the hallway at school, and her parents had to take her home. The passage of the bill has also caused the Doe family to consider leaving Idaho so that Jane can continue to access the medical care that has helped her so significantly.”

Major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and over 20 more agree that gender-affirming care is safe, effective, beneficial, and medically necessary.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.