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Iowa House Speaker says GOP may restrict gender-affirming care for minors

A crowd stands in front of the Iowa state Capitol. Attendees wave and wear the trans pride flag of blue, pink and white.
Madeleine King
IPR file
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said House Republicans may seek to restrict gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors.

Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said Thursday that House Republicans are considering proposing legislation to restrict gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors.

His statement came shortly before the House Government Oversight Committee held a hearing to ask questions to medical professionals who provide gender-affirming care to Iowa youth.

Grassley, R-New Hartford, was asked by reporters if there will be new legislation that could prevent gender-affirming care for minors.

“I want to see how this committee goes,” Grassley said. “But…I think that is a possibility, yes.”

He said the oversight hearing was an opportunity for medical professionals to explain their work with transgender youth and for lawmakers to ask questions.

“And then if we want to develop policy based on that, we’ve done our due diligence to make sure we’re prepared,” Grassley said.

Keenan Crow, a lobbyist for One Iowa, said it’s an extremely dangerous proposal that would exacerbate the mental health crisis among Iowa’s transgender youth.

“In order for these kids to survive, they need this health care,” they said. “That is the end of the story. To restrict this health care is to cut off their chances of survival.”

Crow said gender-affirming care has been demonstrated as safe and effective, and has been backed by every major American medical organization.

At the oversight committee hearing Thursday, experts from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and UnityPoint Health testified about how they approach gender-affirming care for minors.

Katie Imborek, a professor of family medicine and co-director of the University of Iowa LGBTQ+ clinic, testified that they follow guidelines from leading medical institutions like the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

Patients are assessed on a case-by-case basis by a team of experts, including mental health providers, she said. Many therapies, such as medication to block puberty, are reversible, and studies show transgender kids who receive gender-affirming care greatly benefit.

“Adolescents who have access to gender-affirming care have better mental health outcomes, have less suicidal ideation, have less self-harm thoughts, have less depression, less anxiety, and improved life satisfaction.” Imborek said.

Experts testified that they do not perform genital surgeries on minors, but will consider doing surgery on breasts.

Rep. Brooke Boden, R-Indianola, expressed concern that children under 18 may not be mature enough to make the decision to undergo surgery.

Imborek said it takes a long time to get to the point where they consider surgery as an option.

IPR's Grant Gerlock contributed to this report.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter