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South Dakota legislators introduce bill banning transgender surgery for minors

Opponents say bill — iterations of which have been introduced in past sessions — is a solution in search of problems.

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Rep. Bethany Soye, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1080, speaks at the "Help Not Harm" press conference in the South Dakota State Capitol on the morning of Jan. 17. Lining the stairs behind her were dozens of legislators and activists in support of the bill.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — A group of South Dakota legislators announced plans to introduce a bill to “prohibit chemical castration and cosmetic genital surgeries on children.”

Were House Bill 1080 to become law, the practical effect would be punishing doctors who prescribe hormonal treatment to or perform gender-related surgeries on kids who identify as transgender.

The bill would also lead to a loss of professional or occupational licensing for doctors who violate the law and offers patients the potential for recours in the form of a civil lawsuit for “injury suffered” as a result of covered procedures.

During a “Help Not Harm” press conference on the morning of Jan. 17, Republican Reps. Bethany Soye, of Sioux Falls, and Jon Hansen, of Dell Rapids, along with the Family Heritage Alliance, a conservative interest group in the state, tied their rationale for the bill to what they called the harmful effects of these surgeries and treatments on children.

“[Children] can’t consent,” Hansen said. “Not only because they're just simply too young to understand the consequences of these procedures, but they can't consent because even the doctors don't know the long-term consequences of these procedures.”

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Soye said the bill is targeted so that certain medical practices, such as the use of human growth hormones, are not made illegal as an unintentional side effect.

After the press conference, the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement opposing the bill, pointing to a study that “found that gender-affirming care is associated with significantly reduced rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.”

“Every year, South Dakota lawmakers zero-in on transgender youth and every year the transgender community is hurt while meaningful problems go unaddressed,” Samantha Chapman, the ACLU’s advocacy manager in the state, wrote. “The more we legislate solutions in search of problems, the more our communities suffer.”

Hansen, however, disagreed with this conclusion, arguing that the majority of children with feelings of gender dysphoria do not continue those feelings as they go through the “natural cure” of puberty.

A similar bill introduced in 2020 by Rep. Fred Deutsch, which would have banned certain hormone treatments and surgeries, passed the House 45-26 but stalled in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The new version has four sponsors in the Senate and 22 in the House.

“I think three years ago, nobody knew what the Sanford Gender Identity Summit was,” Family Heritage Alliance Action Executive Director Norman Woods said about what has changed since that legislation was introduced. “And now they know what's going on.”

The proposal comes three days after Sanford Health hosted the Midwest Gender Identity Summit in Sioux Falls on Jan. 13, an event focused on “educating, empowering and supporting the transgender community through the lens of healthcare.” The event, which drew a handful of protesters, was closed to the non-ticketed public and the media.

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Sessions during the event, according to the Transformation Project, a co-host of the event, included, “Gender Affirming Care and The Attitude of Affirmation in Assessment” and “Steps Toward Ending Queer Youth Suicide.”

“Medical providers in our state are becoming increasingly bold about the harmful chemical treatments and experimental procedures being conducted on children in our state,” said Soye, who will serve as the prime sponsor of the bill in the House. “In the guise of medical treatment, children are being mutilated, sterilized, and turned into permanent patients.”

MORE BY JASON HARWARD
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Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or jharward@forumcomm.com.

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at jharward@forumcomm.com.
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