S.D. bill could criminalize doctors who perform gender affirming surgeries

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – This is only the first week of the legislative session, but one South Dakota bill is already getting national attention. House Bill 1057 is known as the Vulnerable Child Protection Act.

The proposed law would impact transgender children, their doctors and their families.

If passed, the Vulnerable Child Protection Act would make it a class four felony for South Dakota doctors to perform gender-changing or affirming surgeries on children. It would also make it illegal to prescribe puberty-halting medications and hormones to children.

Representative Fred Deutsch introduced this bill to the House on Tuesday.

“It is a bill to protect vulnerable South Dakota children who have some challenges with understanding if they’re a boy or a girl. It’s the same penalty as we established in the Female Genital Mutilation bill, I copied the penalty from that bill. I think of the procedures as similar, they’re both mutilating procedures,” Representative Fred Deutsch said.

Deutsch says he began working on this bill nine months ago after meeting children on social media.

“I listened to their stories and the next thing I did was check if there’s any doctors in South Dakota that provide these mutilating or sterilizing procedures, I found there were a number of them and decided to draft a bill to protect our children from these doctors,” Representative Deutsch said.

Opponents of the bill say South Dakota medical providers don’t perform gender affirming or changing surgeries on minors.

“What it does affect, is hormone blockers for youth, which just halts puberty. If you get off the pill or the injection, you go ahead and your hormones come back naturally,” Boots AmongTrees, the interim vice president with Sioux Falls Pride said.

Boots AmongTrees with Sioux Falls PRIDE says taking the medication away could lead to suicide.

Representative Deutsch says allowing children to take the medication could lead to other heath complications. He’d rather have them wait until they’re 18.

Libby Skarin with South Dakota ACLU says lawmakers come up with transgender legislation every year, but this bill is different, because of the weight it places on medical providers.

“I think it’s really unfortunate to see legislators trying to put doctors in prison or for doctors to have to choose between prison and violating their Hippocratic oath,” Skarin said.

The bill was supposed to go to committee Friday, but because of storm warnings, it’s postponed until Wednesday.

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