It Was Never About Protecting Kids

New Republican-sponsored legislation hurts instead of helps children


Quinn Rudnick

Over the last few years, most states have introduced some type of anti-trans regulation, whether it’s something that limits school sports accessibility or healthcare options. (Source: Washington Post)


Conservative lawmakers have been invested in a policy of supposedly “protecting children” for a long time, but recent laws and regulations, including anti-transgender healthcare bans and the reduction of child labor laws, all seem to be doing the exact opposite. 

The Republican party has rooted itself in an idea of protecting children, using that as the basis for creating some of its harshest legislation, but most recent legislation has rapidly stripped away children and their families’ rights to expression, healthcare, and self-management. 

One of the largest groups that Republican lawmakers are targeting is transgender kids, specifically those in grades K-12.

So far in this legislative session, lawmakers across the country have introduced 434 bills that restrict trans healthcare, education, and expression, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Many healthcare bans that are being passed prevent a trans adolescent from being able to receive gender affirming care whatsoever, despite possibly already having received extensive therapy. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, 82% of transgender individuals in the U.S. have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide. Without gender affirming healthcare, many trans people feel so uncomfortable in their bodies that they consider suicide or self-harm. By stripping away access to gender-affirming healthcare, conservatives toy with increasing suicide rates within the trans community. Even while they veil themselves with an idea of protecting children, Republicans are killing them with new laws instead.

While Republicans work towards stripping away trans rights, some states like Iowa are also adamant in tearing down existing laws that prevent unfair child labor, claiming that having middle school aged children work overtime is a good “learning experience.” But by introducing younger children to the workforce, Republicans are endangering kids by increasing the possibility of work-related injuries, or even deaths, according to the Associated Press.

On April 18, Iowa’s senate passed Senate File 545, a bill that would allow minors to work longer hours, increasing the maximum working hours from four to six, and allow 16- to 17-year-olds to serve alcohol at restaurants, according to the Associated Press. The measure passed 32-17, with only two Republicans voting against the bill. The bill will move onto the Republican-controlled House, where it will most likely pass. 

Republican Iowa Governor Kim Renyolds has spoken positively about the bill, explaining that it will offer children an opportunity to earn more money while experiencing new learning opportunities through the job. 

However, U.S. Department of Labor lawyer, Seema Nanda, disagrees, explaining that it is “irresponsible for states to consider loosening child labor protections,” when speaking to the Associated Press. Nanda believes, like many others who oppose the legislation, that removing labor protections will only increase the risk of work-related injury in children. 

The bill also allows for children under 16 to apply for a special driver’s license to drive themselves to work-related programs. The Iowa Department of Transportation says that a student must be over 14-and-a-half years old to obtain the special driver’s license, placing a limit on who can apply for it, but many opposed to the bill argue that allowing younger children to drive only increases the chances of a work-related injury.

Even while targeting child labor, Republicans have also gone past restricting care for minors. On April 13, Republican Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey announced an emergency regulation that would restrict gender transitioning healthcare for both adults and minors, abandoning the original supposed goal of protecting kids. 

Bailey’s new emergency declaration comes in direct contrast to the party’s classic excuse of protecting children, as it strips away the rights of trans and non-binary adults as well. By expanding the consequences of the anti-trans legislation, he effectively negates conservatives’ favorite argument. 

Bailey claims that it’s necessary to introduce “substantial guardrails” around medical treatments such as puberty blockers, hormones, or gender affirming surgeries. The guidelines include at least 18 months of therapy before receiving puberty blockers or surgeries. The rule will make Missouri the first state in the country to restrict gender affirming procedures for all ages.

Aside from targeting trans adults, recent legislation has also started to attack the parents of trans children. A new Florida bill would allow the state to remove children from their parents’ care if they were to receive gender affirming hormones. However, 57% of Americans view political attacks on families with trans children as a major problem and only 15% believe it’s not a problem at all, according to a Fox News poll. Despite the fact that Republicans believe they have the moral high ground over trans issues, politics that attack queer people are not popular.

Republicans defend this bill and others by claiming that gender affirming healthcare would have long-term, negative effects on children. However, most beginner procedures, like puberty blockers, do not have long term effects, negating their argument.

By implementing legislation that targets both trans kids and adults, Republicans are essentially working towards systematically eliminating an entire group of people. Current legislation like gender affirming healthcare bans as well as reduced protections around child labor laws do not protect children and instead serve to create dangerous environments for queer kids and their families.