News (USA)

North Dakota to start imprisoning doctors who provide gender-affirming care to trans youth

JUNE 13 2021: Protest at Brooklyn for trans youth rights.
Photo: Shutterstock

The Republican governor of North Dakota signed a law that makes gender-affirming care for transgender youth illegal in the state, carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for doctors caught helping trans youth.

The bill went into effect immediately after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed it on Wednesday. The law would have been passed even if he vetoed it since the legislature passed it with a veto-proof majority. All Democrats in the Montana legislature voted against it.

H.B. 1254 bans reversible puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy – forms of gender-affirming care available to some trans teens – but Burgum’s statement mentioned surgery, which mostly is not available to minors, saying that the law is “aimed at protecting children from the life-altering ramifications of gender reassignment surgeries.” He also acknowledged that these surgeries are not performed on minors in the state of North Dakota.

Despite the non-existence of gender-affirming surgery for minors in the state, the law makes providing gender-affirming surgery to a minor a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Providing other forms of gender-affirming care is now a misdemeanor, punishable with up to 360 days in prison and $3000 in fines.

Major medical associations like the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics support gender-affirming care for trans youth.

The law does not ban any particular medical treatment, only treatments when used to help trans youth. Puberty blockers, for example, have been shown to reduce lifelong suicide risk among transgender people who wanted them and got them. But only young people getting treatment for early onset puberty and other rare conditions can access them now.

Unlike other states that have banned gender-affirming care, trans youth currently receiving gender-affirming care in North Dakota can continue to receive it.

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Burgum has put the government in charge of making vital decisions traditionally reserved for parents in North Dakota,” said ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager Cody Schuler in a statement. “This ban won’t stop North Dakotans from being trans, but it will deny them critical support that helps struggling transgender youth grow up to become thriving transgender adults.”

Thirteen other states have banned gender-affirming care for trans youth. Several states have seen their bans stopped by injunctions issued by federal judges.

Earlier this month, Burgum signed two other anti-trans bills to ban transgender students from participating in school sports. Burgum had previously vetoed the measures but faced a majority in the state legislature that could overcome his veto.

“Concerns raised last session about such policies jeopardizing the ability to host regional and national collegiate tournaments have not materialized in the roughly 20 states that have passed similar legislation,” he said, explaining why he signed the bill this time but not the previous time.

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