SD Senate passes bill prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for minors

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 12:39 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The South Dakota Senate passed HB 1080, which restricts doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or performing gender-transitioning surgery on minors in the state.

Senator Novstrup (R) had a handout from Drugs.Com citing a Swedish study on the effects of gender-affirming care on minors. The Swedish study said the gender-affirming care did not address the psychological aspect of gender dysmorphia that the minors experienced. Sweden decided to deny gender-affirming care to those under 18 years of age.

Sen. Reed’s proposed amendment to allow for puberty blockers

Senator Reed (D) proposed an amendment to allow for puberty blockers. Sen. Reed said the puberty-blocking medication can calm anxiety while psychological work is done.

Sen. Novstrup brought up the most common side effects of the most common drug used to block puberty and asked for the senate to block Sen. Reed’s amendment.

Senator Wick (R) said puberty is a difficult period in a person’s life, but you get through it. Sen. Wick said most people will grow out of their gender dysmorphia as they age.

Sen. Reed said all drugs have side effects and that we should let the medical professionals discuss those side effects with the patient and parents. The doctors should decide whether it is appropriate for a patient to receive puberty blockers, but that a conversation should be between those involved. Sen. Reed said its true- puberty is a tough time, but we don’t want to lose even one of our children because they could not receive the medical attention they needed.

The motion to amend HB 1080 to allow doctors to prescribe puberty blockers failed.

Sen. Nesbia’s proposed amendment to allow access to counseling

Sen. Nesiba proposed an amendment to allow the Department of Social Services to allow for counseling for those experiencing gender dysphoria and suggested that counseling be funded by Medicaid. Sen. Nesiba said we need to get counseling to the children in need. The amendment does not allow invasive medical intervention, only psychological help.

Sen. Wick said he wanted to defeat the amendment because of the lack of funding for counseling.

Sen. Novstrup said adding an unfunded mandate should not be added at this time.

Sen. Nesiba said HB 1080 is an unfunded mandate on a family experiencing gender dysmorphia which imposes costs on families with members experiencing gender dysmorphia by forcing them to go to another state to get the help they need. The amendment Sen. Nesiba proposed just makes sure that these kids can get access to Medicaid so they can get the counseling they need.

Sen. Nesiba’s motion to provide psychological counseling for minors experiencing gender dysmorphia failed.

Further comments

Sen. Liz Larson said surgeries gone wrong are simply not happening in South Dakota. Sen. Larson said she legislators are overstepping their power by going between a doctor and a patient.

Sen. Shawn Bordeaux said he supports the two-spirit, trans community. This is an injustice to the work we should be doing. Sen. Bordeaux said he hears from minors that they feel “we’re picking on them.” Sen. Bordeaux said it’s sad that funding is an issue. Sen. Bordeaux said this isn’t a South Dakota issue. Legislators had to look for case studies outside the state because they could not find people from South Dakota that were affected by this issue. Sen. Shawn Bordeaux said this issue rarely affects people in the state, and for those it does affect- they’re already starting their campaigns.

HB 1080 passed in the Senate with 30 in favor, one exemption, and four against. The bill now moves to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk for her signature.

ACLU opposes HB 1080

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1080, the organization said in a press release. The bill represents vast government overreach that undermines the fundamental rights of parents. Singling out gender-affirming care for categorical prohibition violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process, representatives say.

“House Bill 1080 is a devastating and dangerous violation of the rights and privacy of transgender South Dakotans, their families and their medical providers,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Medical decisions belong to patients (and their parents) and their doctors – not the government. The only controversy in providing life-saving gender-affirming care for transgender youth in South Dakota is the one fabricated by legislators who want to see this harmful bill become law.”

Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades, and it is supported by every major medical association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

“Committee members heard proponent testimony from out-of-state care providers speaking on medical treatments outside their scope of practice. Proponents flew in individuals who are on a nationwide speaking tour in state legislatures introducing similar legislation,” Chapman said. “Meanwhile, opponents who live in South Dakota – whether doctors, parents or youth themselves – made a compelling case that this is the wrong path for our state. Despite the clear transphobic agenda of the sponsors and flimsy justification for adding another discriminatory law in our state, our elected officials voted to interject the government into complex and private dynamics and decisions of South Dakota families.”

The risks of denying this health care to the young people who need it are grave and well-founded while passing this legislation has made South Dakota less safe and less welcoming for transgender youth, their families, and all who love them.

“Discrimination against a marginalized group is a distraction from the state’s real needs and hurts us all,” Chapman said.

Laws similar to House Bill 1080 that passed in Arkansas and Alabama are currently enjoined by federal courts.

FHA Action applauds passage of HB 1080

The Family Heritage Alliance Action responded positively to the senate’s passage of the bill.

“With today’s vote, South Dakotans have said ‘no more,’” said FHA Action Director Norman Woods. “No more chemical castration – no more experimental surgery – no more permanent damage to children’s bodies. The bill has passed with overwhelming support, and we look forward Governor Noem’s signature on the bill.”

Rep. Bethany Soye of Sioux Falls, and the prime sponsor of the bill said, “Minors deserve true meaningful help, not permanent physical damage. Countries like Sweden started these interventions years before us and have only recently stopped after witnessing the significant harm being done. We took swift action in our state to protect children, learning from Sweden’s dangerous mistake, and we are thrilled to have the Governor’s support on this legislation.”

The bill has passed it’s final legal hurdle and will be headed to the Governor’s desk for her consideration. Governor Noem has already pledged her support for the bill at the beginning of the legislative session.