The South Dakota Senate has passed a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors, joining the House, which OK’d it last week, and sending it to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem for her expected signature.
The Republican-dominated Senate approved House Bill 1080 Thursday by a vote of 30-4. It would ban not only genital surgery, which is hardly ever performed on minors, but other types of surgery as well as hormone treatment and puberty blockers. If the bill becomes law, health care professionals who violate it could lose their licenses and also be sued.
One senator proposed an amendment to allow doctors to prescribe puberty blockers, but it was defeated, Dakota News Now reports. Another amendment to allow counseling for minors experiencing gender dysmorphia failed as well.
Civil rights groups denounced the legislation. “House Bill 1080 is a devastating and dangerous violation of the rights and privacy of transgender South Dakotans, their families and their medical providers,” Samantha Chapman, American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota advocacy manager, said in a press release. “Medical decisions belong to patients (and their parents) and their doctors — not the government. The only controversy in providing life-saving gender-affirming care for transgender youth in South Dakota is the one fabricated by legislators who want to see this harmful bill become law.”
Many of the people who testified in favor of the bill were “out-of-state care providers speaking on medical treatments outside their scope of practice,” Chapman said. “Proponents flew in individuals who are on a nationwide speaking tour in state legislatures introducing similar legislation. Meanwhile, opponents who live in South Dakota — whether doctors, parents, or youth themselves — made a compelling case that this is the wrong path for our state. Despite the clear transphobic agenda of the sponsors and flimsy justification for adding another discriminatory law in our state, our elected officials voted to interject the government into complex and private dynamics and decisions of South Dakota families.”
Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel, released this statement:“This is yet another example of legislators deliberately ignoring the real issues facing South Dakotans, and instead shamelessly targeting a small group of vulnerable youth simply trying to navigate life as their authentic selves. This legislation has nothing to do with the reality for transgender youth who receive gender-affirming care, on the advice of their doctors and with the consent of their parents, that is age-appropriate, medically necessary best practice care. Instead, it is about currying favor with extremist voices on the far right who have no shame about harming young folks for their perceived political gain. These legislators don’t know more about this healthcare than every major medical association, representing more than 1.3 million doctors, and note that this legislation will continue to allow non-transgender youth to continue to receive this same care. They are admitting discrimination, not science, is their motive. We call on the South Dakota Senate to reject this discriminatory legislation, and to start focusing on ways to actually improve the well-being and public health of children in the state.”
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 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 moved to prohibit this care in most cases, 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.