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Governor says she plans to sign ban on gender-affirming procedures for minors


Governor says she plans to sign ban on gender-affirming procedures for minors

Mar 21, 2023 | 6:45 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
Governor says she plans to sign ban on gender-affirming procedures for minors
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters on April 13, 2022. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters Tuesday she supports putting a “pause” on gender-related medical care for transgender children until more long-term research on the childhood care is published.

Reynolds said she plans to sign into law Senate File 538, which passed through both chambers earlier this month, prohibiting doctors from giving gender-affirming medical care to transgender children. The bill would bar doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy and surgical interventions to transgender minors who are transitioning.

These treatments for gender dysphoria are approved by many major medical associations in the U.S., and medical professionals as well as LGBTQ advocates spoke out against the measure. But Reynolds pointed to other countries’ approaches to transgender care, like Sweden’s move to restrict minors’ access to hormone replacement therapy. She said she hasn’t seen any of the bills on her desk yet, but she said she’s looking at what’s best for the majority of Iowans.

“And the majority of Iowans support the bill,” Reynolds said. “They support the protection of our children against uncertain science. These are irreversible therapies and procedures.”

The most recent Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found a majority, 52%, of respondents supported the ban gender-affirming care for minors, as well as restricting instruction related to LGBTQ topics in schools. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, gathering responses from 805 Iowans from March 5-8.

She said she understands the difficulties parents of transgender children face in making the best decisions for their children, but said she believed the government has the obligation to restrict acts with potentially harmful or permanent impacts. She brought up government’s restriction of children drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or getting tattoos.

“My heart goes out to them,” Reynolds said. “I’m a parent, I’m a grandmother, 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.”

Doctors, parents and transgender speakers at February subcommittee meetings on the bill said this care helps save the lives of transgender youths, who are at higher risk of suicide. Advocates said treatments are given only after extensive discussions and the elimination of other factors, such as other mental health problems.

But Reynolds said there are not enough long-term studies to support what many major medical groups say is best practice. She compared the discussion to that of the decision to return children to in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said media and medical professionals criticized her for.

“I’m a little leery about heading down that path again,” Reynolds said. “When I believe that the science isn’t conclusive to support what we’re potentially doing to our kids.”

Democrats said the bills violate the federal and Iowa civil rights acts, in addition to federal Title IX protections. Lawsuits have been filed in states including Arkansas and Florida against state laws banning gender-related care for minors. Reynolds said it’s likely the Iowa measure will also be challenged in court.

“They have the right to do that, so I assume that probably will happen,” she said.