SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One of the most controversial bills in the 2023 legislative session has Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature, and that has many people wondering what’s next. HB 1080 bans certain kinds of health care for transgender kids, including puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and certain surgeries.
Noem and supporters refer to it as the “Help Not Harm” bill. She says in a statement that the legislature is “protecting kids from harmful, permanent medical procedures.” A majority of South Dakota lawmakers agree; it passed the House by a 60 to 10 margin and passed the Senate in a 30 to 4 vote.
“They’re prone to irrational decisions,” Republican Rep. Jon Hansen said on Feb. 2. “Most of them don’t have the reasoning capacity to know what’s best for them in that situation, and that’s what we have here with some of our kids, and they need our help. They need our protection.”
“It’s our job to take care of these children, the children that can’t take care of themselves,” Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch said on Feb. 2. “That’s our job.”
However, opponents say it’s unconstitutional, hurtful and could lead to a lawsuit. Before HB 1080, 16-year-old Elliott Morehead of Sioux Falls had plans to look at options for transgender health care.
“So then I’m like, yay, I can finally schedule appointment,” Morehead said. “And then I can start testing and seeing what the options are, and what’s safe and what isn’t and … go to therapy and talk to my new physician and see, like if there’s a possibility for any kind of hormones.”
If the bill becomes law, that can no longer happen in South Dakota.
“Now with HB 1080 signed, I was so close to getting that appointment,” Morehead said. “I was looking at the options, and with this bill signed, that opportunity is now gone.”
Elizabeth Broekemeier of Sioux Falls has a 13-year-old transgender son named Asher who started to receive puberty blockers at the age of 12. She describes the signing of HB 1080 as “a kick in the face.”
“He doesn’t think that he belongs in South Dakota,” Broekemeier said. “He does not think that people want him here. Yeah, so right now it’s a lot of hurt and a lot of anger.”
It has her upset, too.
“When you see your child hurting, you’re going to do whatever you can to try to help them through that,” Broekemeier said. “And I do know that people do want him here. We, fortunately, have a really great support system of friends, some relatives.”
Samantha Chapman, advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, says the organization is looking at every option.
“There was a similar case litigated in Arkansas, which is in the same federal court circuit as we are, which is in the 8th Circuit, to see if we’ll get a ruling on that prior to July 1st to potentially prevent this from going into effect in South Dakota within our circuit,” Chapman said.
As far as best paths forward, Morehead hopes for empathy.
“I just want people to know that transgender kids are valid and they’re real, and you just have to look and be welcoming and open to the idea of something being different than you, having a totally different experience,” Morehead said.
A statement attributed to Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, chief physician with Sanford Health, reads as such: “Sanford Health is evaluating the potential impacts of the legislation for our patients and providers. As written, HB 1080 doesn’t follow evidence-based standards of care. Our focus is on ensuring our patients can continue to work with their medical provider, as well as their families, on the best treatment plan for their individual health care needs.”