South Dakota introduces bill banning puberty blockers, trans surgeries on kids

A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016.
A sign outside a classroom taken in 2016. | REUTERS/Tami Chappell

South Dakota's state legislature is considering a bill that would bar doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and performing transgender surgeries on minors. 

The proposed legislation would make administering trans medicalization and related procedures a felony offense if performed on underage children. 

However, the bill does not apply to those born with intersex conditions, where the children might have, as a result a genetic abnormality, ambiguous or conflicting genitalia.

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The House State Affairs committee will have a hearing for the bill on Jan. 22.

State representative Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, who authored the bill, emphasized in a phone interview with The Christian Post Wednesday that his proposal is not right-wing legislation but a measure to protect children in South Dakota.

"I reached across the aisle to bring on board people with various views. We'll have a progressive testify, we'll have transgender people testify that believe it's child abuse to provide these interventions on children," he said.

Thus far, the bill has garnered over 40 co-sponsors.

He believes Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, will experience similar pressures to scrap the bill as did her predecessor, Dennis Daugaard, also a Republican, when Deutsch introduced a bill in 2016 to keep private spaces, such as restrooms, sex-segregated. Daugaard ultimately vetoed that bill but Deutsch says the medicalized gender-transitioning of children is an even more serious issue.

"This bill is a pause button bill," Deutsch told CP.

"It says leave our kids alone and let them mature and let the normal, beneficial effects of puberty act upon their systems. We know from the literature that approximately 85 percent of children that are confused about whether or not they are a boy or a girl that the confusion goes away naturally. But you don't mess with them with opposite sex hormones, puberty blockers or surgeries that mutilate."

Deutsch recalled his shock when he first heard about the hormonal agents and surgical procedures that were being done on gender-confused children when he stumbled upon online testimonials of youth and young adults who had written about how they regretted going through with transition because they're bodies were harmed and the damage was permanent.

Asked what kind of pushback he expects, Deutsch said it was too early to say but suspects the usual political actors, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, to oppose it.

The ACLU has already issued a statement saying the bill will harm trans-identified children and will make their lives harder.

South Dakota Democrats say they will oppose the measure. 

Deutsch said he has found several instances of doctors administering gender-transition treatment in Sioux Falls.

According to The Associated Press, Rep. Kelly Sullivan, D-Sioux Falls, said the bill interferes in the doctor-patient relationship and she is not aware of medical facilities that gender-transition minors. She argued that the Republicans' bill is a waste of time.

Other states are likely to follow South Dakota with similar legislative proposals.

Amid international media attention in the fall over the case of 7-year-old James Younger in Texas — a boy whose mother says he is a transgender girl named Luna and intends to transition him against the will of his father — Republican state legislators from Texas, Kentucky and Georgia have announced their intentions to bar gender-transition drugs and surgeries on minors in their states.

Puberty-blocking drugs in particular have been coming under increased scrutiny, as doctors opposed to the practice of chemically suppressing normal puberty voice their objections despite some medical organization's promotion of the drugs as safe and reversible. 

In essay published in Public Discourse responding to the Pediatric Endocrine Society's recent statement in support puberty blockers, Rocklin, California-based endocrinologist Michael Laidlaw explained that, contrary to their claims, the effects of the medications for stopping normal puberty are not fully reversible. The FDA has never determined that there is scientific evidence to validate such claim, and that no long-term studies exist addressing this particular question.

"There is nothing healthy about stopping normal puberty, because puberty is not a disease. The practice represents an unethical medical experiment with both known and unknown harms to adolescent development and to the human person, during a crucial time in a young person’s life," Laidlaw said.

"Adolescents can never regain the years that are lost to the blockade of normal bone, brain, and pelvic development. Puberty may be inadvertently 'paused' for an additional year or more after stopping puberty blockers, and the pituitary may never fully recover. Time lost for adolescents in developing into their sexed bodies with their peers and reaching psychosocial developmental milestones cannot be regained," he added.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalterFollow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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