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Iowa lawmakers pass ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors

A crowd gathers at the iowa statehouse in support of LGBTQ rights
Katarina Sostaric
Iowans gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to protest anti-LGBTQ bills, including one banning gender-affirming care for minors.

Gender-affirming medical care would be banned for transgender minors under a billIowa lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk Wednesday.

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate passed the bill in less than 24 hours, and Gov. Kim Reynolds could sign it into law within the next few days.

It would prohibit Iowa doctors from providing puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones and surgeries for transgender minors. Major American medical organizations support such treatment.

Under the bill, teens who are already receiving hormone therapy would have 180 days to end their treatment in Iowa. They could seek treatment in other states.

Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, said while there’s data on both sides, he believes it largely shows these treatments put children “on a path of lifelong struggle” and make them more likely to consider suicide.

“It is hard to conclude that parents in Iowa are being given the facts they need to make an informed decision, or their struggling children have the judgment to consent to life-altering procedures,” Holt said. “These children are struggling with gender dysphoria. They are struggling, and they are confused.”

Holt said major medical organizations have made mistakes in the past.

But Democrats said banning gender-affirming care will put transgender kids’ lives at risk.

Rep. Molly Buck, D-Ankeny, said gender-affirming care can reduce the risk of suicide for trans youth and has the potential to save teens’ lives. She said the bill is also a violation of civil rights.

“There’s no difference in denying someone access to the medical care they need because they are Black or because they are transgender,” she said. “This bill takes away rights from parents. It takes rights away from families. And it takes rights away from children.”

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, said his comparison of European countries’ policies on gender-affirming medical care doesn’t show a corresponding differences in suicide rates.

“This bill today is reversible,” he said. “You can undo this bill in the future. But you cannot undo those procedures on those young girls and boys.”

Rep. Ross Wilburn, D-Ames, said his 31-year-old son is transgender. He said James completed his transition with top surgery at the age of 21, and that James says the surgery saved his life.

“Bills like this do take away freedom from Iowans to be who they are, and from their parents to make health care life-saving decisions for their children,” Wilburn said.

Five Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the bill for a 58-39 vote. One of them was Rep. Chad Ingels, R-Randalia.

He said choosing to focus this legislation on an extremely small population is sad, and none of his constituents ever brought this up to him as an issue. Ingels said the bill seeds division.

“It also asks the question, when do parents matter? We have had a lot of discussion about parents mattering, parents being the focus,” Ingels said. “But not until those parents think differently than us, evidently.”

Ingels said he advocates for a quality life for everyone, inspired by his two children with disabilities. He said this bill would postpone that quality of life for families with transgender kids, and some may never achieve it.

Before debate on the bill began in the House Wednesday, a large crowd of people gathered in the Statehouse to protest this bill and other anti-LGBTQ bills moving forward in the legislature.

Community Organizer Jo Allen told the crowd that the bills are focused on expelling transgender people from public life.

“Those most impacted by these laws have been and will always be trans,” they said. “That is not going to change. And despite the bills you put out against us, we will continue to be our most authentic, trans selves.”

Allen said transgender youth deserve the same love and protection as everyone else.

The Iowa Senate passed the same bill Tuesday night with a party-line vote of 33-16.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 9-8-8, or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter