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The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed legislation to punish doctors and medical providers who offer various forms of gender-affirming treatments that could be used to help transgender youth transition.
Under the bill, it would be a Class 1 misdemeanor to prescribe hormones, puberty blockers, or gender confirmation surgery for transgender children under the age of 16.
If convicted, the medical provider who prescribes such treatments could be jailed for up to one year and fined up to $2,000.
Lawmakers passed the bill by a 46-23 margin, even though Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has previously said she had “a few concerns” about the bill, reports the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
State Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence), the bill’s primary sponsor, celebrated passage, tweeting that after “some of the heaviest lobbying,” lawmakers managed to pass a bill to “protect gender-confused children.”
Deutsch recently backtracked on comments he made comparing gender-affirming treatments to medical experiments conducted by Nazis during the Holocaust.
He made the comparison during an interview with Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council.
“To me, that’s a crime against humanity when these procedures are done by these so-called doctors… that dance on the edge of medicine,” he told Perkins. “You know, I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor. I’ve had family members killed in Auschwitz. And I’ve seen the pictures of the bizarre medical experiments. I don’t want that to happen to our kids. And that’s what’s going on right now.”
Deutsch later told The Washington Post that he did not intend to equate transition-related medical procedures with Nazi crimes against humanity.
“I regret making the comparison,” he said “I regret saying anything at all. It was pretty stupid.” He later added: “I wish I wouldn’t have opened my mouth because it takes the focus off the purpose of the bill, which is to try to help children.”
Deutsch and many other conservatives have expressed concerns that children who are prescribed hormones and gender confirmation surgeries — the latter of which few minors undergo — are sterilizing or “mutilating” themselves before they even know who they are or finish developing, and may one day regret their decision.
However, medical science has shown that the effects of hormone treatments and puberty blockers are reversible, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently found evidence that puberty blockers can actually help children who suffer from gender dysphoria avoid developing mental health conditions like depression.
The bill to ban gender-affirming care now heads to the Senate. If the measure is eventually signed into law by Noem, the ACLU of South Dakota has threatened to challenge the law in court.
“By blocking medical care supported by every major medical association, the legislature is compromising the health of trans youth in dangerous and potentially life-threatening ways,” Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South Dakota, said in a statement.
“Discrimination against a marginalized group is a distraction from the state’s real needs and hurts us all,” Skarin added. “Transgender young people live in our state and need to feel like the government represents them, too. The more we legislate solutions in search of problems, the more our communities suffer.”
Dr. Alexis Chavez, the medical director for The Trevor Project, condemned the bill’s passage, calling it a “grave threat” to the wellbeing of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and called on senators and Noem to block the bill.
“At The Trevor Project, we know based on the work we do every day that respecting and affirming a young person’s identity is crucial to their health and well-being,” Chavez said in a statement. “This bill actively contradicts evidence-based medical recommendations and restricts parents’ ability to support their child with best-practice care, which has been shown to decrease suicide risk. Medical decisions should be made between doctors and their families — politicians have no role in this intensely personal process.”
Debra Hauser, the president of Advocates for Youth, also denounced the bill.
“South Dakota has made itself a dangerous place for transgender children and young people,” Hauser said in a statement. “This bill and others like it are not based in concern for child welfare, but rather in fear-mongering and transphobia.
“Transgender young people have the right to safety and affirmation, and to be celebrated for who they are,” she added. “Legislators should be working to ensure these young people are safe in schools and communities, not spreading misinformation.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include reaction from Advocates for Youth.
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