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Why St. Luke’s Might Block an Idaho Ban on Gender Reassignment

What’s good for St. Luke’s is not necessarily good for Idaho.


Nearly 70% of Idahoans favor a ban on gender reassignment treatments. The legislature is sure to hear a bill on just such a ban during the next few months. But the prospects for such a ban passing are not bright.


St. Luke’s stands in the way.


St. Luke’s Boise campus has the leading transgender health clinic in Idaho. Its clinic, it seems, prescribes puberty blockers. It seems to oversee the use of hormone therapies. As far as we know, the Essence Clinic at St. Luke’s does not perform surgeries. But gender affirming care is very, very lucrative for hospitals. It requires lots of follow-up treatments. And lots of medications. The Essence Clinic is, it seems, a profit center for this “non-profit” hospital system.


St. Luke’s is very powerful in Idaho. It is the state’s largest private employer, with more than 15,000 employees, well ahead of Wal-Mart, which does not have 10,000 employees.


Elsewhere, in small states, hospital systems like St. Luke’s have been able to translate their outsized economic power and moral authority into a roadblock against legislation regulating gender reassignments and other related transgender issues.


Idaho did pass the first in the nation ban on males participating in female sports in 2020, so this road block need not prevent any regulation of things transgender. The power of the hospital system is much more difficult to beat on its own turf.


South Dakota is a case and point. South Dakota’s Stanford Health has partnered with national transgender advocacy groups to ensure that the road to puberty blockers, hormone therapies and genital mutilation is always clear. Stanford was strong enough to kill the fairness in women’s sports act in South Dakota. Stanford used its leverage to oppose legislative initiatives like securing conscience rights for those in the medical field who oppose abortions or sex-change treatments. Stanford leveraged its power to oppose to a ban on puberty blockers and sex-reassignment surgeries--a bill as popular in South Dakota then as it is in Idaho now.


“The bill to prevent doctors from giving hormone-blocking drugs to kids — when it failed, that was all Sanford,” John Mills, a Republican lawmaker representing South Dakota’s fourth house district, told National Review. “You want to believe it’s not about the profit, but you also witness the reality of what’s happening on the ground and can’t help but wonder.”


Connections between the transgender movement and Stanford go well beyond lobbying to kill unfavorable bills. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has been plagued by close connections with tranny advocates, as when her administration hosted a Transformation Project event supported by over $100,000 in government funds. The number of gay groups flooding South Dakota is also incredible, and they are often aligned closely with the hospital system (as Nate Hochman’s report shows).


Much the same thing is happening in Idaho. St. Luke’s is extemely powerful. It shaped Idaho’s less than freedom-friendly COVID policies. It got behind the efforts to mandate the dubious COVID vaccines. It led the efforts to expand Idaho’s Medicaid through the initiative process—and it has profited handsomely from its windfall. St. Luke’s is also covered with glory, due to its status as the premier hospital in the Valley.


Here’s hoping that the relevant legislative committees drag leaders of the Essence Clinic to the Capitol building to answer some decisive questions. How many patients? How much does St. Luke’s profit from these treatments? What kind of recourse do patients have for treatments that are later regretted or poorly executed?


Rather than a ban, the legislature might consider passing tort legislation that allows patients to sue doctors who prescribe gender affirming treatments or surgeries for up to fifty years. Damages need not be capped. The hospital that hosts the doctors could also be put on the hook for tons of damages. That ban is self-enforcing, rather than requiring unreliable bureaucrats to oversee bans and district attorneys to prosecute. Either way, St. Lukes will be standing in the way.


Former General Motors CEO Charles Erwin Wilson, who later served as Dwight Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense, is known for saying, “what’s good for GM is good for the country.” That view was not implausible in the 1950s. Idaho citizens should not be fooled into thinking the same thing about St. Luke’s. What’s good for St. Luke’s is not necessarily good for Idaho.

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