S.D. House OKs ban on gender-change treatment

Thursday, January 30, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota House on Wednesday passed a bill that would ban gender-change treatment for children under 16, including surgeries, puberty-blockers and hormone therapy.

The measure makes it possible to charge doctors who do so with a misdemeanor that could carry up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The bill passed the Republicancontrolled House 46-23, with a handful of Republican defections. It now moves to the Senate.

GOP Gov. Kristi Noem has said she has concerns about the bill but hasn’t said whether she would veto it.

Republican legislators, with backing from conservative advocacy groups, are pushing similar bills in at least six states, including Florida, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois and New Hampshire.

Lawmakers argued about the medical, legal, and financial ramifications of the law for nearly 90 minutes before voting.

Democrats and LGBTQ advocates say the treatments may be lifesaving and medically necessary because they can improve the mental health of transgender children. They warn that blocking treatment could raise the risk of suicides.

The South Dakota State Medical Association also opposes the bill, calling it interference in the doctorpatient relationship.

Proponents of the bill in South Dakota argue that the medical treatments are ideologically motivated and harm children in the long run. Rep. Fred Deutsch, the Watertown Republican who introduced the bill, called it a “pause button” for children who want to change their gender.

“The argument that carried the day, rightfully, is that we’re protecting children in South Dakota,” he said.

House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, a Sioux Falls Democrat, said that doctors in South Dakota have told him that this is this is not a problem in the state.

“They were appalled that they are going to be told by us how to do their job,” Smith said.

Sanford Health, one of the largest medical providers in the state, treated fewer than 20 minors seeking treatment for gender dysphoria last year, according to Mitch Rave, a lobbyist for the business.

Deutsch said there are two other health care providers in the state that offer treatment to children with gender dysphoria.

Smith said Republicans were “cherry-picking” medical studies, alternately pointing to medical studies that detail the long-term effects of puberty blockers and hormone therapy, while also casting doubt on doctors and medical associations that recommend gender-change treatments for children.

Leading medical authorities, including the Endocrine Society and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, do not recommend gender-change surgeries for minors. For youths experiencing puberty and older adolescents, the Endocrine Society recommends that a team composed of expert medical and mental health professionals manages treatment, which can include puberty-blocking drugs or hormone therapy.

Several Republicans broke with their party to oppose the bill.

Rep. Jess Olson, a Rapid City Republican, said that in running an organization mentoring children she has helped in the care of a transgender child. She said the proposed law would be government overreach.

“We need to be careful when we interfere with parental rights,” Olson said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has promised to mount a legal challenge to the gender-change treatment ban if it becomes law.

But House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, a Platte Republican, told legislators that the Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal organization with ties to Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., has offered to defend the state if it’s sued.