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Iowa transgender kids are now barred from getting gender-affirming care and using certain school bathrooms

FILE - Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference at Iowa Spring Manufacturing, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Adel, Iowa. President Joe Biden’s plan to require vaccinations at all private employers of 100 workers or more has already hit a wall of opposition from Republican governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general.(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Charlie Neibergall
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed bills into law Wednesday banning gender-affirming care for minors and restricting school bathroom use.

Transgender kids in Iowa were legally barred from starting gender-affirming medical treatments and from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identity after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed two bills into law Wednesday.

The use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for gender transition is now banned for minors, but those already receiving care have 180 days to end their treatment in Iowa.

Iowa law now bans people who are transgender from using K-12 school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.

Reynolds’ office announced the bill signings in a news release Wednesday afternoon and did not include any comments from the governor.

Asked about the bills at a news conference Tuesday, Reynolds said she believes the science around gender-affirming care for minors is not conclusive.

“It is about protecting these kids,” she said. “And I think, you know, we should pause and just see what the data and the science proves moving forward.”

A statement from Iowa Safe Schools said the bills block medically necessary, lifesaving care for transgender youth, and discriminate against transgender Iowans.

Becky Tayler, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, said the governor has shown she doesn’t truly care about parents’ rights.

“The parental rights of LGBTQ families have been sidelined for the sake of the governor’s ill-fated power trip to national office,” Tayler said. “The governor’s legacy will be forever tainted by the day she signed away parental rights and put children’s lives directly at risk.”

Des Moines Public Schools Interim Superintendent Matthew Smith said in a statement the district is required to comply with the law restricting bathroom and locker room use for transgender students, employees, parents and visitors.

“However, nothing has changed in our commitment to welcome and serve our LGBTQ+ population with respect and dignity,” Smith said. “DMPS policy along with federal and state laws prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. DMPS will continue to strongly enforce all anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to protect all students and staff, and to create an environment that is welcoming to all in our community.”

Smith said under the new law, any student who desires greater privacy when using the restroom or changing room may submit a written request to their principal that is signed by their parent or guardian.

The Iowa State Education Association, which represents public school employees, issued a statement condemning what it called the legislature and Reynolds’ repeated attacks on Iowa’s LGBTQ+ students.

“To our students, we support you. We respect you. We care for you,” said ISEA President Mike Beranek. “We will fight to ensure you are safe, healthy, happy, and learning. We stand with all our students today, tomorrow, and always.”

At Tuesday’s news conference, Reynolds said it’s not easy for elected officials to make these decisions.

“I’m a parent. I’m a grandmother,” she said. “I know how difficult this is. This is an extremely uncomfortable position for me to be in. I don’t like it. But I have to do what I believe, right now, is in the best interest of the kids until we can have some more research done.”

Reynolds said she would not be surprised if lawsuits were filed against the new laws.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter