JAKE TAPPER (HOST): In our health lead, the Idaho House has passed a bill that would make it a felony, a felony for physicians to provide sex reassignment surgeries or puberty blockers or hormone treatment to transgender teens under the age of 18. The bill now heads to the Idaho State Senate amid desperate warnings from opponents who say this will lead to an increase in suicide rates among transgender teens. I'm joined by Eve Devitt, a transgender teen in Idaho who is directly impacted by this bill and her father Michael Devitt. Thank you both for being here. I know this isn't necessarily what a 17-year-old wants to be doing on a Tuesday. Eve, you testified before Idaho lawmakers on February 7th. I just want to run a little bit of what you said about that bill.
EVE DEVITT (GUEST): In less than 24 hours I will be going on a plane to go to a consultation for SRS, sexual reassignment surgery, which is planned to be taking place in a little over a year. I see this as my final step into the body that I should have been born into. This bill threatens to not only bar me from receiving this care, but also from accessing the hormones that have single-handedly not only improved but saved my life.
TAPPER: What do you mean by saved your life, not just improved, but saved your life?
EVE DEVITT: I mean, okay, so before I went on testosterone blockers and then estrogen, I was in the worst mental state of my life, because I saw going through male puberty as this irreversible and horribly terrifying thing that would stop me from being able to live the life that I should have been able to, you know. So that was, it was absolutely horrifying. I truly do believe that I would have ended up killing myself if I wasn't able to access that.
TAPPER: Michael, a lot of people who testified pointed out the conflict between the bill and Republican lawmakers' statements on other matters of support for parental rights and freedom. One GOP state lawmaker said that Idaho law says that some choices are abusive even for a parent. How do you respond to that?
MICHAEL DEVITT: It's really hard, honestly. We live in a state that values parental rights and religious freedom, yet the authors of this bill make it really clear that the only parental rights they are in favor of are those that they agree with and religious freedom, they only agree with what they agree with. As a family of faith and as parents who take parenting seriously, I never thought the state of Idaho would be our biggest enemy and trying to step between us and our kids and raising them.
TAPPER: Eve, one of the arguments you hear from opponents of body-altering treatments is that they should wait until you're an adult, 18. Why are they wrong?
EVE DEVITT: Well, because you can't wait until you're an adult. For the vast majority of trans kids, they won't be adults without this treatment. I wouldn't be — I wouldn't have made it past, like, 14 if I didn't have that treatment.
TAPPER: Because you would take your own life, is what you mean?
EVE DEVITT: Yeah.
TAPPER: Michael, your daughter started estrogen about three years ago. Where do you think she would be right now if she had not had access to this treatment? And what is your message to the people watching right now who don't understand, who don't get it?
MICHAEL DEVITT: Well, let me start with that. I didn't get it either. I didn't understand right away either. So I totally get it, but I would say to them let's not make understanding a prerequisite for loving people and allowing them to live the lives that they feel lead to live. I don't think any of us can understand what Eve is going through, but Eve can't understand what I'm going through as a parent or an adult or a physical therapist. I think that isn't as big of a deal as we make it.
TAPPER: Eve, this bill would subject physicians to felony charges if they provide puberty blockers, or hormone treatments, or gender-affirming surgeries to minors. You've been treated by physicians with some of those treatments. Are you worried about physicians in Idaho?
EVE DEVITT: I'm terrified, yeah. It would be absolutely devastating, not only to me, but to so many other trans people living in Idaho, so many trans kids living in Idaho. So many physicians who just want to be able to give their patients these treatments that have been legal for so long and that are tested and proven to work.
MICHAEL DEVITT: Jake, if I may, this is evidence-based medicine we're talking about. The witnesses that the proponents of this bill brought in were really fringey characters that were literally suggesting things that flew completely in the face of the AMA and American Academy of Pediatrics. This is a skilled group. I think they probably could have found astronauts against space travel if they looked hard enough. And the thing is, that’s setting the standard of care in Idaho to be fringey as opposed to evidence-based medicine. My wife and I, whose a physician, love our kids too much to subject them to fringey medicine.
TAPPER: I think one of the things that comes across, and there's certain debates that could be had about girls athletics and things like that, but when it comes to the cruelty that we see in this debate so often, the meanness about some of the most vulnerable people in our society, it's really just remarkable and not how any faith teaches us to behave.
EVE DEVITT: Yeah. I think it's interesting that you brought that up because the reason why people are subjecting kids like me, trans kids to this harsh antagonism is because we are the most vulnerable group right now, that are okay to attack, because before it was trans kids, it was gay kids, before that it was gay adults. So as those things have become more normalized, they can't attack that group anymore. So we're just next on the chopping block really.
TAPPER: I just remember hearing a story about George W. Bush when he was president, and he had a transgender classmate, you’ve probably heard it. I guess they had the Yale 25th reunion at the white house and the transgender woman said, you might not remember me — I guess they were in the line — you might not remember me because back when I was at Yale, I was so and so, and then President Bush, not known for being a huge supporter of LGBTQ rights at the time said, and now you're you. I thought that was a special story. Eve and Michael Devitt, thank you for coming on.