Transgender youth health care ban passes another committee

Next legislative step is the Senate, which could send bill to the governor

By: - February 8, 2023 2:40 pm
Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, speaks on Jan. 17, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre about a bill she introduced to ban some forms of health care for transgender youth. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, speaks on Jan. 17, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre about a bill she introduced to ban some forms of health care for transgender youth. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

A bill that would ban some forms of health care for transgender youth passed the state Senate Health and Human Services committee 4-2 Wednesday at the Capitol in Pierre, after testimony similar to earlier hearings.

Senators Sydney Davis, R-Burbank; Michael Diedrich, R-Rapid City; Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen; and Erin Tobin, R-Winner, all voted to pass the bill.

Senators Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, and Tim Reed, R-Brookings, were the no votes. Sen. Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, was excused.

Ban on youth transgender care passes committee after impassioned debate

Reed tweeted afterward, “While I agree with most of the bill I did not agree with not allowing puberty blockers to help a child deal with their gender dysphoria.”

The bill already passed the full House of Representatives and now heads to the full Senate, its last legislative stop before it could potentially be sent to the governor to be signed into law.

The bill has been met with resistance from LGBTQ advocacy groups, medical professionals and concerned citizens. They argue the bill violates the rights of transgender children and their parents.

“It’s a huge government overreach into the patient-provider relationship,” said Samantha Chapman, of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota.

If the legislation becomes law, health care professionals treating transgender children would be banned from prescribing drugs such as puberty blockers and prohibited from performing some types of surgeries. 

Supporters of the bill argue those types of treatments – often referred to as gender-affirming care – are not appropriate for minors. They say minors are not capable of making informed decisions about their own medical care and that such treatments can do permanent physical and psychological harm. 

Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, introduced the “Help Not Harm Bill” and said Gov. Kristi Noem supports it. 

“We need to stand up for the vulnerable children in our state,” Soye said.

The bill says health care providers could lose their license if caught providing the banned services, and could also be held liable in lawsuits.


There are several exemptions in the legislation, including one for children who are “born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development.”

The bill’s proponents intend the exception to cover medical situations when a child’s physical sex is unclear. They make a distinction between those kinds of physical diagnoses and the mental-health problems that they view as causing someone to consider themselves transgender.

“We do have exceptions in the bill that if there is a medically verifiable ‘incongruence,’ that it can be addressed,” Soye told South Dakota Searchlight.

But opponents say being transgender is a medically verifiable condition. 

The World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases is the basis for health statistics around the world. It’s used by physicians, nurses, researchers, health insurers and others. The classifications are determined by delegations from member states who participate in the World Health Assembly.

During the past several years, the World Health Organization changed its classifications. People who have a gender identity that does not match their physical, sexual characteristics are no longer classified as having a mental or behavioral disorder. They’re regarded as having a condition related to sexual health.

Soye said she’s not familiar with the World Health Organization’s new classification. 

Another bill supporter, Norman Woods, director of the Family Heritage Alliance, rejects the World Health Organization’s classification.

“That’s what they want people to believe,” he told South Dakota Searchlight.




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Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.