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Bill Protecting Parents Who Deny a Child's Gender-Related Treatment Fails in Committee


House Bill 1205 protects parents from legal problems if they refuse to allow their child to undergo healthcare treatment related to the child’s gender identity. The House Health and Human Services Committee defeats the bill after testimony from a human rights group and the argument that the bill is not pro-life. 

House Bill 1205 concerns treatment that would “induce, confirm, or promote” the child’s belief that their gender identity is different from their sex assigned at birth. Senator Phil Jensen is the bill’s prime senate sponsor. He says the bill protects parental rights to make medical decisions for children who are minors.

Opponents say the bill targets transgender children, who are at higher risk of suicide and other problems if their families do not support their identity. Roger Tellinguisen is a lawyer and lobbyist for the Human Rights Campaign. He says this bill gives parents the option to deny potentially life-saving care.

“It minimizes the true medical need for transition related care. It implies a parent’s objection to their child being transgender somehow obfuscates the child’s identity and trumps the child’s legitimate medical needs,” he says.

Tellinguisen says the state does not have similar laws for vaccines or other aspects of care.

Senator Jensen responds that if transgender children are suicidal, they need counseling.

“Instead what we find is we have programs that encourage the confusion and the gender dysphoria that is in part normal as you transition from a child into a teenager," Jensen says.

The American Psychiatric Association describes gender dysphoria as a feeling of discomfort when a person’s identity conflicts with the gender they’re assigned by others. A diagnosis requires clinically significant distress demonstrated over a long period of time and is not a typical response to puberty.

Representative Tim Rounds takes issue with the bill’s broad protections from legal action--regardless of the nature of the treatment.

“I’m pro-life. This is an anti-life bill. If a parent has that opportunity to save a life of their child and they don’t take it, they have problems,” says Rounds.

The House Health and Human Services Committee ultimately sends House Bill 1205 to the 41st day on a 10 to 3 vote.

Regional Health supports Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB.