South Dakota’s Republican-led state senate has approved a bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Kristi Noem (R) who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill, H.B. 1080, forbids doctors from validating any minor person’s transgender identity. It also forbids them from providing puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), any sterilizing surgery, any surgery that constructs genitalia differing from the gender a person was assigned at birth, and any removal of “healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue,” USA Today reported.
The procedures are only banned in the context of transitioning. That is, state lawmakers didn’t ban a set of medical procedures because they believe that the procedures are too dangerous; they only banned a class of people from getting the procedures for a specific purpose.
These restrictions, for example, don’t apply to doctors conducting non-consensual surgeries on minors with intersex characteristics. The law specifically says that doctors can use any of the listed treatments if they are to change the appearance of an intersex child’s body so that it looks like the sex doctors assigned the child.
The broadly written law would go so far as to ban the provision of puberty blockers to transgender children, reversible medical treatments that are used to give trans youth and their families more time to understand their identities before the permanent effects of puberty set in. The bill also says that any minor who’d be harmed by stopping their use of puberty blockers or HRT must systematically reduce their use and stop using these treatments entirely by December 31, 2023.
“Blockers have a place helping families navigate through an extremely difficult situation. We need to be able to give these kids a chance,” state Sen. Tim Reed (R) said. He offered an amendment to allow transgender youth access to puberty blockers. The amendment failed, and Reed still voted for the bill.
If a doctor provides any of the forbidden types of care, they can have their professional state licenses and certifications revoked. They can also be sued for civil damages up to three years after providing the care or until their minor patient reaches the age of 25. This would allow parents to sue if they disapprove of their children’s transitions.
The law goes against the best practices of trans-related pediatrics outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of societal acceptance and access to gender-affirming care contribute to high rates of suicide among trans youth.
The American Civil Liberties Union says H.B. 1080 violates U.S. constitutional protections against gender-based discrimination and parental rights under the Due Process Clause. It’s likely that the law will also be challenged in court for violating doctors’ free speech rights. Similar laws in Alabama and Arkansas have been blocked in courts.
Noem signed a ban on trans youth in school sports in February 2022. She ran a national ad touting her anti-transgender policies, possibly with an eye toward the 2024 presidential primary.
In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law making his state a sanctuary for trans kids and their families seeking relief from transphobic laws. But while some families from red states like Texas are fleeing for friendlier states, such states are only sanctuaries for those who can afford to relocate.