Bill to Restrict Medical Treatments for Transgender Adolescents Passes Committee
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Bill to Restrict Medical Treatments for Transgender Adolescents Passes Committee

As the legislative session in Pierre heats up, a bill aimed at blocking minors from receiving certain medical and surgical procedures causes controversy.

Rep. Bethany Soye introduced House Bill (HB) 1080, which would ban healthcare professionals from “attempting to alter the appearance of a minor’s sex… if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex” if passed. 

This includes, prohibiting someone under the age of 18 from taking a drug to delay puberty or undergoing a surgical procedure to alter genitalia if it is “inconsistent with [their] sex.”

The bill passed through the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday along party lines, with a House vote expected in the near future.

Supporters of the bill argue that hormones and surgeries are not helpful for South Dakota’s transgender youth, but rather damaging and harmful.

“We care deeply about our children who are struggling with their identities and want to provide them with true meaningful, not printed physical damage,” Soye said during a committee hearing Tuesday.

Soye also claimed “80 to 90% of children struggling with their identities will come to accept and thrive as their biological sex” by the end of puberty.

“As a child I wanted to be able to wear boy clothes and I came up with a name for myself in third grade,” Soye said. “I wrote that name on all my class assignments. However, my parents didn’t take me in for chemical treatments…and changed to loving being a girl.”

Opponents of the bill argue HB 1080 is harmful to transgender youth. Rep. Erin Healy, a member of the House Health and Services Committee, voted against advancing the bill.

“I wished that some of our moderate Republicans stood up for mental health and the medical community. But this isn’t that surprising,” Healy said. 

Healy also claimed that the bill’s language is misleading and designed to influence public perception around this issue.

“They’re directly mischaracterizing evidence-based medical procedures.There is so much counseling and therapy that you have to go through in order to determine that gender affirming care is right for individuals,” Healy said. “Most transgender people know they’re transgendered and gender affirming care is a critical part of helping transgender adolescents.”

Healy suggested the bill would face litigation in the event it becomes law on the grounds it discriminates against transgender people.

“It blocks puberty blockers for only trans individuals, and I believe that that is where you’ll see the argument if this passes that  litigation coming because you are targeting a group based on gender,” Healy said.

Healy also argued the bill bans “life-saving care” and sends the message that trans adolescents and families’ lives are not worth saving. 

When asked if Tuesday’s hearing addressed intersex minors, Healy stated that the committee hearing did not address how the bill would deal with intersex people. 

Other states have also proposed similar legislation this year amid a growing culture war.