January 16, 2020

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1057, a bill that would criminalize doctors for providing medically necessary care for transgender youth.

The bill, which was introduced Tuesday, would make it a felony for medical providers to treat youth consistent with evidence-based treatment protocols. HB 1057 continues the streak of bills that would codify discrimination against transgender youth that the South Dakota Legislature has attempted to pass over the last five years.

Like all health care, health care for transgender youth is individualized and based on the needs of each particular person. This bill would take away private health care choices around the provision of medical care consistent with prevailing medical and scientific standards. Such choices should be made between a doctor and a patient, not politicians.

“Transgender kids, like all kids, deserve a chance to experience joy, to learn in a safe environment, to get the health care that they need, and to survive into adulthood,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South Dakota. “When the government proposes laws that would stigmatize them and undermine their care, they lose those opportunities.”

By blocking medical care supported by every major medical association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, the legislature is compromising the health of trans youth is dangerous and potentially life-threatening ways. Research shows that transgender youth whose families affirm their gender identity have a 52 percent decrease in suicidal thoughts, a 48 percent decrease in suicide attempts and significant increases in self-esteem and general health.

No other state has passed a law like HB 1057. It is unconstitutional to single out one group of people and categorically ban all care, no matter how medically necessary. 

“Every year, South Dakota lawmakers zero in on transgender youth and every year the transgender community is hurt while meaningful problems go unaddressed,” Skarin says. “The more we legislate solutions in search of problems, the more our communities suffer. It’s time we stop these attacks and focus on issues that matter to the people of South Dakota. Discrimination against a marginalized group is a distraction from the state’s real needs and hurts us all.”

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