PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would target transgender health care for minors.
The “Help not Harm” bill introduced by Representative Bethany Soye (R-Sioux Falls) seeks to prohibit doctors from prescribing cross-sex hormones, performing genital surgery on children and “interfering with healthy puberty.”
In addition to making gender-affirming care illegal, House Bill 1080 would allow someone to collect damages later in life if harmed and would subject physicians to review by a medical board for unprofessional conduct.
“Medical providers in our state have become increasingly bold about the harmful chemical treatments and experimental procedures being performed conducted on children in our state,” Soye said in a press conference Tuesday. “Today is the day that we draw a line in the sand and we say no more.”
Representative Hansen, who has been vocal on Twitter about a Gender Summit hosted by Sanford Health and the Transformation Project, said that the time is right for the bill.
“We’re asking people to stand with us and encourage their legislators to vote to protect children,” Hansen said.
The bill excludes minors born with a “medically verifiable disorder of sex development,” a disorder of sexual development, or a minor needing treatment for an infection “cause or exacerbated by any action or procedure prohibited” by this bill.
Opposition to bill say it oversteps
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota (ACLU) said the bill is part of a “streak of bills that would codify discrimination against transgender youth that the South Dakota Legislature has attempted to pass over the last seven years.”
The ACLU went on to say that they believe that medical choices should remain between a doctor and a patient.
“It’s an override of parents, patients and healthcare experts and represents vast government overreach into the doctor, patient and parent-child relationship,” ACLU advocacy manager, Samantha Chapman, told KELOLAND News. “These are decisions that are made closely with families and their physicians, and it’s absolutely it’s a terrible precedent for the government to be stepping in here.”
Chapman said that transgender and nonbinary youth face higher rates of depression and suicide when they are unable to access care that affirms their identity.
“I think it’s absolutely fair to say that we can see a loss of lives in South Dakota,” Chapman said.
A 2021 study from JAMA Surgery found that transgender individuals who received gender-affirming care saw a 44% decrease in suicidal ideation.
“When the government proposes laws that would stigmatize them and undermine their care, they lose those opportunities. The result of legislation like this won’t be that fewer kids grow up to be trans, it will be that fewer kids grow up,” Chapman said.
Soye told lawmakers at the press conference that she “cares deeply” about children who are “struggling with their identities” and that they should be provided with “meaningful health, not permanent physical damage.”
Chapman said that transgender youth aren’t just meeting with medical professionals for physical care, but psychological care as well.
“These youth are meeting with therapists, they’re meeting with mental health experts are meeting with, you know, psychiatrists to really address this transition holistically,” Chapman said. “You know, this, this bill is zeroing in on some specific medical components of trans care for youth, and is ignorant of the broader picture, the amount of time and medical expertise coming from various fields of medicine go towards providing care for trans youth.”
States across the country propose similar laws
Soye’s bill is part of a larger trend of anti-transgender legislation across the country. As of now, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia have all introduced legislation targeting health care for transgender children.
Iowa is introducing two pieces of legislation similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Chapman said that the LGBTQ and Two-Spirit community is a “vulnerable population” and nation-wide attacks are “threats of violence” against the community.
“You know, when the when one of the co-sponsors of this bill is tweeting out specifically, the name of a medical provider in South Dakota, who is providing gender-affirming care, to children or to youth in South Dakota, that is, I think, certainly an attempt to direct people to look to look at that provider with menace,” Chapman said.
South Dakota has introduced similar legislation to HB 1080 in years past but the bills ultimately failed. This year, the bill already has the support of over 20 lawmakers. Even if passed and signed into law, Chapman said that there is legal precedent from previous bills similar to South Dakota’s.
“We’ve seen similar legislation in Alabama and Arkansas, that’s been litigated,” Chapman explained. “And we know that those things like federal courts have blocked those attempts to ban gender-affirming care. I would assume that in South Dakota, the case would be the exact same.”
The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee and will need to pass through committee and then both the House of Representatives and Senate before it could make its way to Governor Kristi Noem’s desk to sign.
KELOLAND News has reached out to the bill’s sponsor multiple times but has yet to receive a response.