State Representative Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) introduced a bill, HF 106, in late January that would prevent licensed mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change a patients sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.

Those who engage in such activity under this bill would be subject to the licensing authority or disciplinary authority over the mental health provider.

This bill includes providers such as physicians and surgeons who specialize in psychiatry, a licensed marital and family therapist, licensed mental health counselor, licensed social worker, licensed school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, advanced nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse, and anyone else who provides counseling, mental health, and behavioral health services or practice under Iowa law or rule. It also includes students or volunteers who work under these professionals.

Hunter defines “sexual orientation change efforts” in the bill as “any practice by a mental health provider that seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or gender identity, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

It does not include “counseling or therapy that provides acceptance, support, and understanding of the individual or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”

This bill applies to any patient regardless of age. There is no religious exemption, even though there are many faith-based licensed mental health providers in the state.

Hunter’s bill received sharp criticism.

“HF 106 is not just about homosexuality – it actually requires all health professionals to affirm even young gender confused children as transgender which guarantees that many minors will be permanently sterilized under the guise of treating gender dysphoria – a condition that would otherwise resolve in up to 95% of them with counseling that either affirms biological sex or promotes watchful waiting. This is criminal,” Dr. Michelle Cretella, executive director of the American College of Pediatricians, told Caffeinated Thoughts.

Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Amanda Sansone enjoined an ordinance with similar language in Tampa, FL finding that the plaintiffs demonstrated the ordinance violated the First Amendment.

Like the Tampa ordinance, the Iowa House Bill authored by Hunter includes “talk therapy” a common practice for counselors.

State Representative Jennifer Konfrst (D-Windsor Heights) is a co-sponsor of the bill. The bill was introduced into the Iowa House Human Resources Committee. Blank Children’s Hospital, the Iowa Conference for the United Methodist Church, Iowa Psychiatry Society, and One Iowa support the bill.

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