North Dakota legislators last week advanced several anti-transgender bills, including one that would make it a crime to provide gender-affirming health care to minors.
The state’s House of Representatives Friday passed Senate Bill 1254, which would make it a Class B felony to perform gender-confirmation surgery on anyone under 18, The Bismarck Tribune reports. Genital surgery is almost never performed on minors — it is not considered a component of the best medical practices — but some minors do have top surgery, which is also covered by the bill. Violation would come with up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.
The bill would make provision of puberty blockers or hormone treatment a Class A misdemeanor, with a prison term of up to 360 days and a fine of up to $3,000. The legislation now goes to the state Senate.
Republican Rep. Brandon Prichard, a supporter of the measure, said it will counter “a general assault on the innocence of children,” the Tribune reports. “We need to protect our children from being experimented on,” he added. “We have to have a criminal violation for butchering children and for changing them and for playing on a dysphoria.”
Medical organizations, however, do not consider the treatments experimental, and LGBTQ+ advocates and allies point out that they are often lifesaving. “Gender-affirming care is suicide prevention,” said Democratic Rep. Karla Rose Hanson. “You might not understand why a person feels this way. You might not agree with their choices to identify differently, but let parents make these decisions for their kids.”
The House voted down a bill that would have provided for civil penalties for doctors who perform gender-confirmation procedures on minors and for parents who permit this treatment.
States that have restricted gender-affirming care for youth include Alabama and Arkansas, where laws are currently blocked by court action, and most recently, South Dakota and Utah (by legislation) and Florida (through action by medical boards).
The House Friday also passed House Bill 1297, which would ban changes to a birth certificate “due to a gender identity change,” unless there is a data entry error or the person has had genital surgery, with proof provided by a medical professional, the latter being the current policy, the Tribune reports. It too heads to the Senate.
Another bill the chamber approved was House Bill 1474. It “would define ‘father,’ ‘female,’ ‘mother,’ ‘male’ and ‘sex,’ and would mandate school districts and vital statistics agencies to identify people based solely on their sex assigned at birth,” according to the paper.
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, a Democrat and a gay man, said the bill is “just a complete overreach of our government and again, another example of us just trying to limit and erase certain people from our society.”
Earlier in the week, the House had OK’d two bills barring transgender girls and women from participating in female sports, one affecting K-12 public schools and the other dealing with public colleges and universities. Opponents said the legislation is unnecessary.
“We didn’t have any testimony from any athletes in North Dakota that had been affected, we didn’t have any testimony from any coaches that there were any issues, nor did we have any testimony from any schools that there was an issue,” said Democratic Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, according to a North Dakota CBS affiliate.
Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel, issued a statement against the bills, saying, “School sports teach the values of leadership, learning, and working together across differences to accomplish something together which no individual can do alone: values that some members of the North Dakota House clearly need a refresher on. Transgender students at all levels of skill have been playing sports consistent with their gender identity for decades, consistent with rules in states across the country which balance fairness and inclusion for everyone. Women’s sports have an important role in the story of equality in this country, and as a cisgender former high school athlete, I know that many real issues face women’s sports — chronic underfunding, lack of access for those who cannot afford to play in expensive travel leagues, unequal pay, lack of attention from the sports establishment, sexual harassment … the list goes on. The legislators promoting these two discriminatory pieces of legislation ought to focus on those real issues rather than caring about women’s sports only long enough to pin its challenges on vulnerable kids who just want to play. When extremist politicians rob transgender students of these formative experiences and isolate them from their peers for no other reason other than they’re transgender, it is discrimination, plain and simple. To this hypocrisy, we have a simple but direct response: stop feigning concern over women’s sports to justify yet another attack on trans kids.”
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed a bill in 2021 that dealt only with K-12 schools, as he said there was no incident of a trans girl seeking access to girls’ sports. He is still in office, but the House passed the current measures with a veto-proof majority, as it did with the other anti-trans bills, the Tribune notes.
The sports legislation now goes to the Senate. For its part, the Senate last week approved a bill “that would prohibit K-12 teachers from calling transgender students by their preferred pronouns unless parents give permission,” according to the Tribune. The House will take it up next month.