As LGBTQ Iowans and supporters watched from the Iowa House gallery on Wednesday, most Republicans in that chamber signed off on a bill that strips parents of transgender and non-binary kids of the right to make healthcare decisions for their own children.
The House voted 58-39 on a bill to prohibit gender-affirming care for anyone under the age of 18 in Iowa. Several Republicans, including Reps. Hans C. Wilz, Chad Ingels, Shannon Latham, Brian Lohse, and Megan Jones, joined House Democrats in opposing the measure.
Gender-affirming care is an all-encompassing term used to describe a range of treatments to help transgender individuals deal with body dysphoria, including social interventions and hormone-related treatments that affirm a child’s gender identity. Research shows that such treatment improves the mental health of transgender youth and saves lives.
“I want the people of Iowa to know that not everybody in the majority party in this Capitol will vote for this bill, will believe in this bill,” Ingels said. “We believe everybody—I believe everybody should get the opportunity to be happy.”
Lohse said while he may not agree with the principle of gender-affirming care, he does not believe legislators should make that decision for others, especially as he and fellow Republicans have declared that this session is about reclaiming parental rights.
Jones introduced an amendment that would allow gender-affirming care with parental consent—which is the current practice—but it was voted down.
The bill specifically bans puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, “if the practice is performed for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of, or affirm the minor’s perception of, the minor’s gender or sex, if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex.”
The medications are only banned for use related to trans health care.
A medical practitioner who violates this bill risks losing their license to practice medicine in Iowa.
“Iowans sent us here to work on our problems. They didn’t send us here to take rights away from parents,” said Rep. Adam Zabner (D-Iowa City).
Speaking on the House floor, Rep. Ross Wilburn (D-Ames) shared a story about his son, James, who is trans. The elder Wilburn noted how courageous his son was about transitioning and sharing his story publicly to inspire others.
Before the debate, Iowa WTF and the Iowa Queer Student Alliance hosted a rally in the Capitol to urge lawmakers to vote against this proposal and some of the other anti-LGBTQ legislation slated for debate on Wednesday.
Additionally, The Trevor Project, the “world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people,” released a statement criticizing the anti-LGBTQ bills in Iowa.
“Fifty-two percent of transgender and nonbinary youth in Iowa seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 22% attempted suicide,” said Kasey Suffredini, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “This is a public health crisis that is entirely preventable. Transgender and nonbinary youth are not uniquely prone to suicide, but rather are placed at higher risk by the harassment and discrimination they face because of who they are.
“Iowa lawmakers should be working to support these vulnerable youth people by increasing their access to affirming health care, safe schools, and support systems, not pushing a political agenda that will only put them more in harm’s way,” Suffredini added.
The Iowa Senate approved the companion bill on Tuesday. Gov. Kim Reynolds will likely sign the legislation into law before hosting an event with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.
The bill, which goes into effect within 180 days of being signed, will make Iowa the fifth Republican-led state to ban gender-affirming care for minors, joining Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah.
by Ty Rushing
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