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Thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets of Manhattan on June 27, 2021 to participate on the Reclaim Pride Coalition's third annual Queer Liberation March, where no police, politicians or corporations were allowed to participate. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Furthering Attacks on Trans Kids and Abortion Rights, GOP Targets Those Who Leave State for Care

New proposals would criminalize parents of transgender youths in Idaho who leave the state for gender-affirming care and women in Missouri who travel to obtain abortions.

Julia Conley

Republican-led state legislatures are intensifying attacks on transgender and reproductive rights by trying to bar people from leaving their home states to receive gender-affirming healthcare and abortion care, as lawmakers in Idaho and Missouri have proposed in recent days.

In Idaho on Tuesday, the state House passed a bill that would make providing gender-affirming care to transgender youths a felony—punishable by life in prison. It also includes a provision making it a crime for parents or guardians to permit their child to travel out of state for treatment.

"Denying someone medically-necessary healthcare simply because you don't approve of who they are is textbook discrimination."

The bill, H.B. 675, easily passed in a 55-13 vote, with just one Republican joining all the Democrats in rejecting the measure. The measure will now move to the state Senate and may be signed into law by Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, if it passes.

The legislation passed as more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are making their way through state legislatures, targeting transgender youths' right to play on sports teams that correspond to their gender rather than sex assigned at birth and to access healthcare, teachers' rights to discuss LGBTQ-related topics at school, and other rights.

According to state Rep. Lauren Necochea, a Democrat who spoke out against the bill on the House floor, multiple transgender children in Idaho have made suicide attempts since H.B. 675 was introduced.

"Our transgender youth are so incredibly courageous, and I know how stressful it has been for transgender youth and their families as they've watched this bill move through this body," Necochea said. "An Idaho doctor has had to assist three transgender youth related to their suicide attempts since this bill has been introduced. We need to trust those parents and providers to make these deeply personal decisions."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's directive calling on the state Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the families of transgender youths who obtain treatment has pushed Texas Children's Hospital, the largest pediatric hospital in the U.S., to halt gender-affirming care for minors.

According to The Washington Post, more Texas parents of transgender children are now "looking to get treatment out of state—or move altogether."

If parents in Idaho make similar attempts, they could be found guilty of a felony.

Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, called the proposal "deadly."

"These bills do nothing to invest and protect Idaho youth and families and Idahoans deserve better," said Strangio. "Criminalizing healthcare for transgender adolescents is counter to science, medicine, and ethics and we stand ready to fight any attack on transgender youth and their families."

Major national medical associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for youths. As Human Rights Campaign state legislative director and senior counsel Cathryn Oakley said in a statement Tuesday, new research has found that such treatment "reduces the risk of moderate or severe depression by 60% and suicidal thoughts by 73%" in transgender young people.

"Every kid in Idaho deserves the chance to grow up feeling safe and respected for who they are," said Oakley. "Denying someone medically-necessary healthcare simply because you don't approve of who they are is textbook discrimination."

As H.B. 675 moves through the Idaho state Senate, at least one Republican lawmaker in Missouri is attempting to bar pregnant people from leaving the state to obtain abortion care, as thousands of residents have since Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy in 2019.

That law has since been enjoined amid litigation, but it includes provisions banning the procedure at 14, 18, and 20 weeks in case earlier bans are struck down.

Since the law was signed, a Planned Parenthood clinic at the Missouri-Illinois border has reported that at least 10,644 Missouri residents have received care there.

The new proposal, which GOP state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman is adding to several abortion-related bills ahead of debates in the legislature, would allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion out of state.

Coleman's proposal is "more proof that it's not about abortion, it's about controlling people who can become pregnant," said reproductive rights advocate Justine Sandoval.

"They are putting bounties on the heads of women," said political consultant Fred Wellman. "That's what this is."

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