Commentary

Parents and pediatricians. Not politicians.

We don’t co-parent with our legislators. Why are they making medical decisions for our kids?

February 2, 2024 4:30 pm
An opponent of the state's ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children holds a sign during an event at Van Eps Park in downtown Sioux Falls on July 28, 2023. The protesters called for state lawmakers to repeal the ban. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

An opponent of the state’s ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children holds a sign during an event at Van Eps Park in downtown Sioux Falls on July 28, 2023. The protesters called for state lawmakers to repeal the ban. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Like any parent, I’ve spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office over the years. From routine well-baby visits and annual exams to (thankfully fewer) urgent-care situations, I know my way around the clinic. My husband and I have had many questions and great conversations with our doctors regarding the best care for our kiddos. 

But you know who’s never been a part of these conversation? Our legislators. 

Medical decisions should be made between patients, their parents and their doctors – not politicians. 

‘Children are political targets’: A family’s struggle with SD’s trans health care ban

But across the country and right here in South Dakota, lawmakers have been sticking their noses into matters they shouldn’t – specifically heath care decisions that have been traditionally reserved for parents. 

Last year, South Dakota lawmakers passed legislation that prohibits doctors from providing life-saving gender-affirming health care to trans youth, essentially putting the government in charge of making vital health care decisions for our kids. 

We don’t co-parent with our legislators. Why are they making medical decisions for us?

This year, there’s a bill that would give children’s medical decisions back to parents. Senate Bill 216 would give parents the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of their children with gender dysphoria.

Like all health care, health care for transgender youth is individualized and based on the needs of each particular person. Research shows that providing appropriate care to trans kids improves mental health outcomes, including decreased rates of depression and anxiety, substance use and suicide attempts. Parents, physicians and medical experts have explained again and again how South Dakota’s cruel and unconstitutional law is causing immense and irreversible harm across our state.

Senate Bill 216 would amend last year’s gender-affirming care ban to allow doctors to provide puberty blockers or hormonal treatment – nonsurgical medical care consistent with prevailing medical and scientific standards – to trans kids only with parental consent. 

Gender-affirming care saves lives. Transgender kids, like all kids, deserve a chance to experience joy, learn in a safe environment, get the health care that they need, and survive into adulthood. The current law substitutes the state’s judgment for that of loving parents who are following the guidance of their children and the advice of doctors.

Freedom is a family value – at home, at school, and at the doctor’s office. And it includes freedom for parents to make decisions about their children’s health care.

 

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Samantha Chapman
Samantha Chapman

As advocacy manager for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, Samantha Chapman builds the ACLU’s public education and advocacy programs through coalition-building, leadership development, communication and lobbying. She ensures that supporters of the ACLU of South Dakota have the tools, information, and opportunities to be effective advocates on issues like abortion rights, Indigenous justice, criminal justice reform, and LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights. Samantha joined the ACLU of South Dakota in December 2022 with six years of professional advocacy and health care communications experience.

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