Written on March 31, 2021

A slew of bills targeting transgender and LGBTQ rights were introduced in the Iowa Legislature this year. The bills, 15 in all, primarily target transgender youth.

Rep. Sandy Salmon (R, Black Hawk) introduced four of these bills, including House File 193, which would make it unlawful for medical professionals to provide gender-affirming treatment to transgender youth and would legalize conversion therapy.

“This is by far one of the worst bills out of all of them,” said Keenan Crow, Director of Policy and Advocacy at One Iowa.

The treatments transgender youth would no longer have access to under this bill include sterilizing surgeries, mastectomies, puberty blockers, testosterone, estrogen, or removing any “healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue.” If a medical professional were to perform any of these procedures on transgender youth, their medical license could be revoked and they could be fined up to $1,000.

Crow, who uses they/them pronouns, said that HF 193 would make medical professionals have to choose between evidence-based best practices and inevitable consequences.

“That’s not a place we want to be putting our medical professionals in,” Crow said. “We want to allow them to follow best practices.”

Others believe the bill will prevent those under 18 from making life-altering decisions. The Family Leader, a conservative Evangelical group, agrees with the restrictions in HF 193.

“Many if not most of the procedures covered in the bill are ones that medical providers do not recommend be performed on children, especially those who have not passed adolescence,” said Nathan Oppman of The Family Leader.

HF 193 would also legalize conversion therapy for transgender youth. The bill states that a parent can withhold their child’s consent for any treatment that is designed to change their conception of sex and gender or treat their gender dysphoria.

Crow said conversion therapy is not therapy at all but instead tries to change someone’s behavior through aversion. They added that it often makes transgender individuals feel bad about themselves, which simply doesn’t help them.

However, Oppman said The Family Leader believes “counseling that affirms the value of a healthy child’s created body is good and is something we should welcome.”

HF 193 also states that “[Transgender people’s] suicide rate is 19 times higher than the general population. They experience significantly higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and psychiatric hospitalizations.”

Crow argues that these propensities are not simply due to being in the LGBTQ community. Rather, they are the result of how other people treat transgender individuals.

“The reason that we see, for instance, elevated mental health and suicidality in transgender folks is not because they’re transgender. It’s because of the discrimination they experience on kind of a constant basis,” they said.

In fact, Crow said that just by bills like HF 193 being introduced, reports of mental health issues, thoughts of self-harm, and calls to the TrevorLifeline, a 24-hour suicide prevention phone service, increase among teens.

“It has serious detrimental impacts on their mental health, far and away worse than it does on adults, and the impacts on adults is there too,” Crow said.

If, and when, HF 193 does receive a hearing, One Iowa will be ready. The organization tries to get as many people in line to speak at subcommittee meetings because those meetings are the only point where the public has any input, Crow said.

“It’s really easy to demonize a group of people in the abstract but when you have them standing in front of you, face to face, it’s a lot harder to dehumanize them in the same way,” Crow said.

Rep. Sandy Salmon did not respond to a request for comment.

Updated on April 6, 2021

“I can tell you with relative confidence that [HF 193] is not going to advance at all,” Crow said.

And they were right.

As of Friday, April 2, HF 193 cannot be debated for the rest of the legislative session because it never had its subcommittee meeting to move forward in the legislative process. April 2 was the final date for any House or Senate bills and joint resolutions to be reported out of the opposite committees.

None of the 15 anti-LGBTQ bills moved past this last funnel date.

However, since the Iowa Legislature runs in two-year blocks, it can be debated again starting in January 2022. Any bills introduced, but not passed, during the first session are eligible for consideration in the second session.

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