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What matters most (to South Dakota Republicans)

Updated: Apr 22

Far-right culture warriors in the state GOP continue attacks on vulnerable South Dakotans

If a single proposed law represents the dysfunction and skewed vision of the South Dakota state legislature in the grip of a GOP supermajority, not just in 2020 but over the entire 21st century so far, HB 1057 is surely it.

State Representative Fred Deutsch’s House proposal, co-sponsored by 46 of his fellow Republicans in the South Dakota House and Senate, seeks to criminalize the medical treatment of transgender children under the age of 16. HB 1057 would originally have made it a felony for any medical professional to participate in a scary-sounding litany of medical procedures and prescriptions. An amendment to lower the charges to a misdemeanor and limit culpability to physicians has done nothing to improve this legislative atrocity.

The proposed law would prohibit surgeries and sex hormone treatments for minors younger than 16 that already do not happen in South Dakota. These treatments are not a problem in need of fixing because they are not part of the international standards of medical care for transgender children, standards underpinned by years of scientifically rigorous research. HB 1057 would also prohibit so-called “puberty blockers,” which hit the pause button on the development of secondary sex characteristics. That medically appropriate treatment gives young people and their families more time to make well-considered decisions about how to move forward. Stopping these medications allows puberty to continue normally.

CDC statistics find that trans teens suffer depression at a significantly higher rate than their cisgender peers, and they are five times as likely to attempt suicide. A recently released study by the medical journal Pediatrics found that when transgender children have access to a puberty blocker (which HB 1057 would prohibit), their chances of suicide and mental health problems decline substantially.

Nevertheless, in an act of disingenuous incuriosity, eight of thirteen House State Affairs committee members voted to pass 1057 to the House floor despite opposing testimony from doctors, mental health professionals, and young transgender South Dakotans and their families. The full House approved the bill by a 46-23 margin, and it is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Health and Human Services committee on Monday, February 10th.

HB 1057 is only the most visible of a blizzard of bills introduced in 2020 that betray the state GOP’s enduring fixation on anything related to human sexuality, gender and reproduction:

  1. HB 1096, which moves to the Senate after approval by the House, aims to criminalize reproductive surrogacy arranged through an agency.

  2. The deferred HB 1167 and sponsor-retracted Senate Bill 88 would mandate that school counselors, psychologists, and social workers out trans teens to their parents.

  3. The many-tentacled HB 1215 (unassigned to date) would not allow the state to enforce or endorse policies that permit marriage other than between a male and a female, include sexual orientation or gender identity as classes protected from discrimination, and more.

  4. SB 93, also pulled by its sponsor, would allow parents to refuse consent for physical and mental health care services if they believe the service would affirm their child’s gender identity if it differs from their biological sex assigned at birth.

  5. SB 109, waiting to be heard by Senate Health and Human Services, allows health care providers to deny care if the care goes against their “conscience.”

Targeting vulnerable minorities? Check. Flouting federal law to set South Dakota up for doomed lawsuits paid for by taxpayers? Check. Drawing national attention to South Dakota in ways that put our state’s economy at risk? Check. Dismissing overwhelming evidence that challenges their ideology? Check. Promoting the agenda of national organizations over the best interests of South Dakota citizens? Check.

There is no indication that the far-right culture warriors in the South Dakota Republican Party will soon give up attacking minorities in the state on the basis of race, color, religion, sexuality or gender. Members of the party in power are too busy whipping up outrage to focus on real South Dakota problems and opportunities. If they can’t do the job they were elected to do, they don’t deserve to keep it.


ACLU of South Dakota Will Challenge HB 1057 if Passed Into Law

Out-of-State Interests Persuade GOP Majority to Advance HB 1057

Image from Storyteller Journal. Thank you.

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