Editorial: South Dakota Legislature aim to criminalize transgender healthcare

Collegian Editorial Board

HB 1057, a bill criminalizing medical professionals in South Dakota who administer transition therapy to individuals under 16, was introduced to the House of Representatives on Jan. 15. The bill would hold medically accepted and life-saving treatment out of reach for a demographic already wrestling with high rates of suicide and discrimination. Additionally, HB 1057 would postpone hormone treatment past puberty, a critical window for seamless transitioning. In the event that these consequences are not alarming enough, under Section 2 of the bill, any medical personnel administering transition therapy would face criminal charges.

The bill’s website is, at best, cherry-picking and, at worst, an inflammatory misinformation campaign. Rep. Fred Deutsch, in his introductory statement, claims that children should be “protected from dangerous drugs and treatments” as if doctors are pressing transition therapy on families that aren’t seeking it. Deutsch also claims hormone replacement therapy is under-researched and that lack of treatment does not increase risk of suicide for transgender youth without citing any evidence to these points. 

The site also exaggerates the frequency of transition regret, sporting a tab of quotes from transgender people who share their challenges with HRT, but are not directly supporting the bill. An anonymous survey of gender surgeons published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests that post-operation regret is “exceedingly rare.” According to this survey, out of 22,725 patients who had gender reassignment surgeries in the United States and Europe, only 62 reported regretting the transition. Among those 62 patients, the most common reason for regretting their transition was continued social and familial rejection even post-operation.

This attempt to criminalize care providers is an overt expression of disrespect to both medical professionals and their patients given the already extensive approval process in place before one can receive HRT, not to mention reassignment surgery. This process mandates a psychiatric evaluation, that the patient document their gender dysphoria and take on the pronouns and lifestyle of the desired identity before any physiological treatment can begin. Adding further insult, Rep. Deutsch labels surgical transition procedures “castration” and HRT “poison.” The addition of legislative restriction is not only unnecessary, but a violation of civil rights. 

The ACLU of South Dakota has promised to take legal action against the state should HB 1057 become law. Executive Director Heather Smith claims that this bill is unconstitutional on the ground that it targets transgender youth and bars them from receiving essential healthcare. Although HB 1057 comes from her own party, Gov. Kristi Noem has expressed concerns about the state government stepping into family life. 

We at The Collegian believe HB 1057 is an unethical use of legislation to enforce the values of one demographic upon another. The campaign backing the bill is disrespectful towards the trans community as well as the medical professionals who treat them. Rep. Deutsch’s rhetoric reinforces misunderstandings that trans people have been trying to dispel for years. Such rhetoric is also leading Georgia, Florida and other states to introduce similarly oppressive bills. To pass this bill into law would be to brand South Dakota as a state devoid of understanding and acceptance for trans individuals.