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South Dakota Gov. Signs Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Youth

South Dakota Gov. Signs Ban on Gender-Affirming Care for Youth

Gov. Kristi Noem
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's approval was expected.


South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem Monday signed a bill into law that bans gender-affirming care for minors.

House Bill 1080 bans genital surgery (almost never performed on minors), top surgery, hormone treatment, and puberty blockers. It was passed by the South Dakota Senate last week and the House of Representatives the week before. Health care professionals who violate the law could lose their licenses and also be sued. Young people taking medication for gender transition will have to cease doing so by the end of the year, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.

“Noem signed this bill with little media notice and without any press conference or media event as she held when she signed House Bill 1217, which limited transgender students’ participation in sports, into law last year,” the paper notes.

She did issue a brief statement on her website. “South Dakota’s kids are our future. With this legislation, we are protecting kids from harmful, permanent medical procedures,” she said. “I will always stand up for the next generation of South Dakotans.”

LGBTQ+ advocates pointed out that denying care is harmful. “Today is a heartbreaking and tragic day for thousands of South Dakotans and their families,” said a joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union and its South Dakota affiliate. “This ban won’t stop South Dakotans from being trans, but it will deny them critical support that helps struggling transgender youth grow up to become thriving transgender adults. But make no mistake — this fight is not over. We will never stop fighting for the right of trans youth to get the love, support, and care that every young person deserves. As much as Governor Noem wants to force these young people to live a lie, we know they are strong enough to live their truth, and we will always fight for communities and policies that protect their freedom to do so.”

“This ban denies transgender and nonbinary youth crucial support and care,” added Casey Pick, director of law and policy for the Trevor Project. “Even in the face of professional guidance from every major medical and mental health association in the country that supports this type of care, politicians are intruding into the private medical decisions best left to transgender young people and their families. We are committed to keep fighting for the rights of young trans South Dakotans to access the best-practice, medically necessary health care they need to survive and thrive. We are here for you and we aren’t going anywhere.”

Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign's state legislative director and senior counsel, released this statement: “Today, once again, Governor Noem chose to ignore the consensus best practices of every major medical association, the well-being of transgender youth, and the pleas of South Dakotan parents in favor of yet again wielding the power of the state to discriminate against these kids simply because they’re transgender. This dangerous and discriminatory policy ignores the facts about gender affirming care and only breathes more oxygen into the misinformation and extremism that far-right politicians like Governor Noem seem all too eager to dabble in for their own purposes and at the expense of these kids.”

Legislation to ban or restrict gender-affirming care for minors has been introduced in more than 20 states this year, and one of them, Utah, has already enacted it into law, with Gov. Spencer Cox signing a bill to this effect. Alabama and Arkansas had passed bans earlier, and both are blocked by courts while lawsuits proceed. Florida medical boards have prohibited this care, and a university hospital in Oklahoma has ceased providing the treatment to minors after the state passed a law to withhold funds. Bans are advancing in West Virginia and Mississippi, while such legislation has been quashed in Virginia.

A separate Mississippi bill that would classify parents as child abusers if they let their children receive this treatment has died in committee, but bills defining care providers as abusers remain pending in Missouri, Texas, and Wyoming. In Texas last year, Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton ordered that parents who allow their minor children to undergo gender-affirming procedures be investigated for child abuse, but most of these investigations are blocked by court action while a lawsuit is heard.

Noem’s anti-trans actions have also included canceling a trans group’s contract with the state, for which she is now being sued. The Transformation Project lost its contract with the South Dakota Department of Health in December, with the department saying it failed to meet several contractual obligations. Officials with the Transformation Project, which was to provide community health services under the contract, called this excuse bogus and said it was in full compliance and had been smeared by right-wing media.

The group filed a lawsuit Friday saying the termination of the contract was simply discrimination, the Associated Press reports. It cost the Transformation Project a $136,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We believe that our contract was not broken and that the State’s claims against us are unfounded,” Susan Williams, director of the Transformation Project, told the AP.

“Even our state government is not above the rule of law, and we stand with the Transformation Project in this important constitutional challenge,” added Brendan Johnson, an attorney representing the organization.

Noem so far has made no public comment on the suit.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.
Trudy Ring, The Advocate's copy chief, has spent much of her journalistic career covering the LGBT movement. When she's not fielding questions about grammar, spelling, and LGBT history, she's sharing movie trivia or classic rock lyrics.