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Idaho to Court: Let Us Protect Our Children

Idaho passed a law protecting children from harmful medical procedures used to address gender dysphoria. Activists are challenging the law.
Alliance Defending Freedom
A mom and dad and their two kids run through a sunny field

Growing up is a difficult process for many of us, especially during puberty. Your body starts to change in ways you haven’t experienced and can make you feel uncomfortable.

But instead of being told that this discomfort sometimes happens and usually goes away during adolescence, many children are told that their discomfort is a sign that they might be the “wrong” sex and that they should try to change their bodies to look like the opposite sex.

In response, states across the country are passing laws protecting children from harmful, irreversible, and potentially sterilizing medical procedures being pushed by activists to stop children’s natural biological development.

Idaho is one such state. Last year, the Idaho legislature passed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act (VCPA), protecting children who feel uncomfortable with their sex from harmful and experimental drugs and procedures. But activists have challenged the VCPA, so Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, with the assistance of attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom and Cooper & Kirk, is stepping up to defend his state’s law.

What is the Vulnerable Child Protection Act?

The Idaho legislature recognized that body-altering procedures to address gender dysphoria among children “can cause irreversible physical alterations,” such as making “the patient sterile” or causing “lifelong sexual dysfunction,” and that some of these procedures “mutilate healthy body organs.” So in 2023, Idaho enacted the VCPA to protect children from those harms.

The law supports children’s natural biological development by limiting procedures like puberty-blocking drugs, hormone injections, and body-altering surgeries, including surgeries that seek to sterilize, mutilate, or remove healthy body parts and genitalia or construct artificial genitals. The VCPA recognizes that such procedures can harm children who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who otherwise feel uncomfortable with their sex.

The law makes exceptions for cases in which such procedures are needed for the child’s physical health, such as the treatment of a disease or injury, or if they have a medically verifiable genetic disorder of sexual development.

Activists challenge the VCPA

Activists challenged Idaho’s commonsense legislation in May 2023, and a district court blocked the state from enforcing its entire law.

The Office of the Idaho Attorney General, with the assistance of ADF and Cooper & Kirk, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in January, asking the court to allow the law to take effect while the case proceeds. But the 9th Circuit denied the request in two unreasoned orders.

Idaho then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the High Court to narrow the district court’s order to cover only the individuals challenging the law. In April 2024, the Supreme Court granted the application, narrowing the district court’s order and allowing Idaho to otherwise enforce its law while the case proceeds.

Children must be protected

While the science around medical procedures meant to treat gender dysphoria is relatively new, it is becoming increasingly clear that such procedures only harm children.

  • According to the Endocrine Society, about 85 percent of children with diagnosed gender dysphoria do not continue to experience dysphoria or incongruence through adolescence.
  • European countries including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Britain that once pioneered medicalized transition for minors have been reversing course, finding the mounting evidence to be increasingly unfavorable.
  • And as a recent New York Times article has shown, many youth who undergo medicalized transitions come to regret it later.

Children must be protected from these harms, and states are well within their rights to do so.

Labrador v. Poe

  • April 2023: Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act into law.
  • May 2023: Activists filed a complaint challenging Idaho’s commonsense law, followed by a motion for preliminary injunction in August.
  • December 2023: A federal district court blocked the entirety of Idaho’s law despite that action being unnecessary. Idaho filed an emergency motion for stay pending appeal with the 9th Circuit.
  • January 2024: In a one-sentence unreasoned order, the 9th Circuit denied Idaho’s emergency application.
  • February 2024: The 9th Circuit denied a motion for the en banc court to reconsider the panel’s prior stay ruling. Idaho then filed an emergency application for stay pending appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to narrow the district court’s order to cover only the individuals challenging the law.
  • April 2024: The Supreme Court narrowed the district court’s ruling, allowing Idaho to protect children as the case proceeds.