PIERRE, S.D. —A bill that would make it illegal for physicians to perform gender affirming procedures or prescribe hormone blockers to children younger than 16 was killed in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday, Feb. 10.
House Bill 1057 would have made it a class one misdemeanor for a medical professional to perform a gender-affirming operation or surgery or prescribe hormone replacement therapy to aid a child’s gender transition or in an attempt “to change or affirm the minor’s perception of the minor’s sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex,” the bill states.
The hearing room was packed with people who both opposed and agreed with the bill, and more than 30 supporters of transgender people attended the hearing after protesting the bill earlier in the morning.
The bill was moved to the 41st day of the legislative session, effectively killing it, with a 5-2 committee vote.
Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, and Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, were the lone votes against killing the bill, as well as the lone two votes to move the bill to the Senate floor on a do-pass motion.
State Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, is the main sponsor of the bill. The bill has 46 cosponsors.
Legislators amended the bill during Monday’s hearing that removed the criminal penalty and added that civil action could be pursued by people injured by gender affirming treatment or hormone blockers when they were minors.
A person could take action anytime before they reach the age of 38 if they were the injured minor in the case. If they are still under the age of 18, civil action can be taken on their behalf by a parent or “a next friend.”
Physicians testified as opponents and proponents to the bill, offering conflicting arguments and conclusions of various studies on the impact of the procedures.
Without a consensus to be found anywhere in the medical community on whether transgender children benefit or are harmed by gender affirming treatments, the five lawmakers who voted to move the bill to the 41st day said they did so because of the overwhelming public response and the possible ways the bill could be challenged in court.
Sen. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, testified against the bill, saying that the bill would conflict with the state’s medical malpractice statute of limitations for one particular condition.
Curd, a physician, said that the bill could call into question the state’s other medical malpractice statutes.
Lauren Stanley, Superintending Presbyter of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, told lawmakers that in her role on the reservation, she’s the one who works with children from the age of 2.
“I am the person on the Rosebud who is called when one of our children takes their own life,” Stanley said. “I am the one who has to comfort the families. I am the one who has to work with pallbearers who are the same age as the child in the casket.”
Stanely said there are transgender children in her community who are already depressed, anxious, self-harming themselves and are afraid to walk out in the world despite having a culture that accepts them for who they are.
The bill would only cause those children to harm themselves, Stanley said.
“I am guaranteeing one child on the Rosebud will make his or her journey out of depression, oppression,” Stanley said, before calling out any lawmakers who vote in support of the bill.
“Will you be there to comfort the family in the hospital? Will you be there for our wakes? Will you be there for the funeral? Will you take a shovel and help bury that child? Will you take flowers to place on the graves?” she asked.
“I deal with suicide and suicide attempts every week on our reservation. Please defeat this bill, because if this bill passes I will call every member of the legislature who supported it and the governor if she signs it, and tell you to come to the funeral.”
Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, made the final comment before calling for a vote on a motion to pass the bill as amended, saying the state is not ready to regulate transgender health care.
“What I love about public policy is we’ve had a lot of people weigh in and what it’s done is shown the controversy on the issue,” Soholt said.
Soholt added that she strongly believes that local control is what’s best for the residents of South Dakota.
“I have not been challenged to raise a transgender child, but I feel quite strongly that no government should be in the middle of it,” Soholt said.