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Idaho can now enforce ban on gender-affirming care for youth

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled Idaho can enforce its ban on gender-affirming care, such as medication and surgery, for anyone under 18.
U.S. Supreme Court rules Idaho can enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for under-18s.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favour of banning under-18-year-olds in Idaho from accessing gender-affirming care.

This means it will be illegal for medical practitioners in Idaho to provide hormone medication or surgeries to young non-binary and transgender people.

The decision by the highest court in the U.S. goes against multiple rulings by lower courts to stop the ban.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups say the decision threatens the wellbeing of Idaho’s transgender youth.

Idaho law

Last year, Idaho made it illegal for medical professionals to provide numerous forms of gender-affirming care to kids and teens, with penalties of up to 10 years in jail.

The law blocks access to:

  • Hormone medications including testosterone and oestrogen.
  • Puberty blockers, which temporarily stop or delay sexual development.
  • Surgeries like mastectomies for gender-affirming purposes. Under U.S. medical guidelines, these surgeries are almost never performed on under 18s.

Two transgender Idaho teenagers and their parents launched legal action in 2023, after Idaho Governor Brad Little signed it into law.

They argued the teenagers were at risk of mental health issues if they couldn’t access puberty blockers and medication.

A district court agreed to temporarily pause the ban from coming into effect while the legal challenge played out.

Following multiple legal appeals and challenges, the case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.

It dismissed the rulings by lower courts in a decision that will allow Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for young people.

However, the court exempted the two teenagers at the centre of the initial legal challenge from the ban. This will hold until their other legal actions against the state are resolved.

Reaction

Idaho’s top law officer, Attorney-General Raúl Labrador, called the Supreme Court decision “a big win to protect vulnerable kids”.

However, the American Civil Liberties Union, an activist organisation involved in the proceedings, said the ruling was “an awful result for transgender youth and their families across the state”.

LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said: “Restricting or removing access to best practice, necessary and potentially life-saving medical care is harmful”.

U.S. states

U.S. think tank the Williams Institute estimates there are 300,000 high-school-aged students around the country who identify as transgender.

Young people are banned from accessing gender-affirming surgery and medications in about 20 U.S. states.

Ongoing legal challenges in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Indiana seek to overturn these bans.

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