PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A panel of state lawmakers backed legislation Wednesday that would criminally punish physicians and other medical professionals in South Dakota if they were found guilty of performing or attempting many types of gender changes on children younger than 16.
Among them were seven on the House State Affairs Committee that endorsed the bill, 8-5, Wednesday morning, after substantially changing some key parts.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Fred Deutsch, said he sought the amendments to have a better chance of getting the panel’s support.
One of the Florence Republican’s changes would reduce the penalty to a class-one misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail. His original proposal was a class-four felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“The belief was that the hospital systems and those providers would opt not to perform these procedures simply with a misdemeanor, and that we didn’t have to go to the felony,” Deutsch said.
Another change would limit the bill’s scope to children younger than age 16. Deutsch — pronounced doyt-sh — originally wanted it to cover all children younger than 18, including those living legally on their own.
“I thought that lowering the age from under-18 to under-16 would allow us to simply focus on the most vulnerable of children. It was a philosophical decision that I had to make,” Deutsch said.
A third change removes nurses, anesthetists and medical assistants from the ban’s penalty.
The panel’s roll-call vote came after more than two hours of witnesses’ testimony, followed by legislators’ questions and discussion. Several opponents warned that South Dakota would be the one state in the nation with the law.
Voting yes were Republicans Lee Qualm of Platte, Arch Beal of Sioux Falls, Drew Dennert of Aberdeen, Tim Goodwin of Rapid City, Spencer Gosch of Glenham, Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls and Kevin Jensen of Canton.
Voting no were Republicans Michael Diedrich of Rapid City, Kent Peterson of Salem and David Anderson of Hudson, and Democrats Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls and Steven McCleerey of Sisseton.
The committee heard from Quincy Park, a 17-year-old Sioux Falls student who goes by the pronouns ‘they’ or ‘them’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Park said the legislation is causing fear.
“I felt attacked,” Park said. “Not only was this bill attacking me, my friends, my family, my doctors and my community, it was accusing us of a problem that does not exist.”
All but one of Deutsch’s witnesses testified via Skype or telephone from places outside South Dakota. All of the witnesses opposed to the ban were from South Dakota.
Among the crowded room’s audience were University of South Dakota medical-school students in their white clinic coats, as well as at least a dozen other senators and representatives, and several former legislators who now work as lobbyists.
Representative Hansen said part of the legislation’s purpose was to let children become old enough to make more-knowledgeable decisions.
Four doctors in South Dakota — two with Sanford Health, one from Planned Parenthood and one from Rapid City’s renamed Monument system — have reportedly advertised their services for gender changes.
There was testimony Wednesday from a Sanford doctor that parents of children in early grades have sometimes sought medical intervention because of early puberty.
“These kids cannot know the long-term consequences of these actions,” Hansen said. He added, “They’re prone to irrational decisions. We’ve all been there.’
Representative Smith said he doesn’t want South Dakota to be a litmus test for the nation.
“It goes against the Hippocratic oath, Do no harm. So what we’re assuming, with this law, is that our doctors are doing harm. We’re assuming as a Legislature that we know better, again, than medical providers,” Smith said.
South Dakota voters in a 2006 statewide referendum overturned an anti-abortion law the Legislature had passed. Two years later, voters rejected an initiated measure seeking a similar law banning most abortions.
Deutsch is president for South Dakota Right to Life, one of the most active anti-abortion organizations in the state.
Representative Diedrich asked Deutsch whether the proposed ban against gender-change for children was part of a national movement. Deustch said lawmakers in other states became aware of what he had under way in South Dakota and began copying his bill.
Representative Qualm, the committee’s chairman, described the debate Wednesday as “very respectful on both sides” and said the issue was “extremely emotional.”
Qualm said he was “mixed up” when he was “five, six, seven years old.”
“Everybody up here will vote with their heart, what they believe, how it should be handled,” Qualm said.
📜 HB 1057
Introduced ➡ Passed Committee (8-5) ➡ Chamber Vote ➡ Next Chamber ➡ Governor’s Desk ➡ Bill Becomes Law
Purpose of bill: prohibit certain acts against children and provide a penalty therefor.
BREAKING NEWS: HB1057 was passed in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning.
The proposed ban on gender changes has been amended substantially. Now, it would apply only to children under age 16, penalty reduced to class 1 misdemeanor from class 4 felony, and fewer medical professionals affected.
The ACLU, Sanford Health, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the South Dakota State Medical Association, the South Dakota Retailers Association, the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, LEAD South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign oppose the bill.
The proposed law would impact transgender children, their doctors and their families.
If passed, the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act” would make it a class four felony for South Dakota doctors to perform gender-changing or affirming surgeries on children. It would also make it illegal to prescribe puberty-halting medications and hormones to children.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Brookings) introduced this bill to the House on Jan. 15.
“It is a bill to protect vulnerable South Dakota children who have some challenges with understanding if they’re a boy or a girl. It’s the same penalty as we established in the Female Genital Mutilation bill, I copied the penalty from that bill. I think of the procedures as similar, they’re both mutilating procedures,” Representative Fred Deutsch said.
Opponents of the bill say South Dakota medical providers don’t perform gender-affirming or changing surgeries on minors.
“What it does affect, is hormone blockers for youth, which just halts puberty. If you get off the pill or the injection, you go ahead and your hormones come back naturally,” Boots AmongTrees, the interim vice president with Sioux Falls Pride said.
Boots AmongTrees with Sioux Falls PRIDE says taking the medication away could lead to suicide.
Latest actions on the bill
Latest KELOLAND News stories on this bill