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House lawmakers to hear bill banning transgender youth health care


House lawmakers will hear a bill next week that prohibits several types of care for transgender minors in South Dakota.

Backers say hospitals in the state are performing irreversible procedures on children. Critics say the bill’s premise is based on misinformation.

The bill will go to House Health and Human Services committee.

Backers of the bill say evidence exists of a major health system in the state performing genital mutilation procedures on children as young as eight. They've not provided that evidence. Health professionals who work closely with transgender individuals in the state say these surgeries are not performed in South Dakota.

No House Republican leaders are signed onto the bill. They say they’re going to study it closely.

Rep. Will Mortenson is the House Majority Leader. During a leadership press conference he said the state has a special obligation to protect kids.

“The notion of sterilization procedures on 14-year-old kids is a jarring notion to anybody in South Dakota. I think that’s the basic premise from which the bill was born," Mortenson said. "What I’ve been urging to my caucus is empathy for all South Dakotans, respect for all South Dakotans.”

Mortenson said the bill and topic are not new. Social conservatives routinely introduce bills aimed at the state’s transgender community.

International standards of medical-affirming care for transgender adolescents is divided into three categories.

But this bill also bans what is recommended by major medical associations in the U.S. and abroad. That includes access to puberty delaying blockers and partially reversable hormone therapy for those a bit older.

Democrat Erin Healy said misinformation and sensationalism about transgender healthcare is irresponsible.

“When we hear words like that they’re really scary words. A lot of people don’t understand that gender affirming care doesn’t look like that," Healy said. "South Dakota doctors are not performing any kind of chemical castrations to children.”

Gov. Kristi Noem has signaled support for House Bill 1080.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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