Senate Health and Human Service Committee defeat SB216(Transgender Care)

PIERRE, S.D.(Argus Leader)- The Senate Health and Human Services committee voted Wednesday to kill a bill that would’ve changed a law passed last year that restricted minors in South Dakota from receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy, two forms of gender-affirming care.

Sen. Reynold Nesiba’s (D-Sioux Falls) bill, Senate Bill 216, would have allowed puberty blockers or hormone therapy to be given to patients younger than 18 with parental consent, changing the text of House Bill 1080 that passed last year. The bill was shot down by five Senators on the committee.

Nesiba had attempted to bring an amendment removing the civil action portion of his bill and only allowing puberty blockers with parental consent, not hormone therapy, but his amendment failed despite his hopes to make the bill more palatable to legislators.

Proponents of Nesiba’s bill included several parents of trans children including Carrie Soto, Michael Phelan and Susan Williams; trans youth Elliott Morehead and Ayden Gage; Rep. Kameron Nelson (D-Sioux Falls); and lobbyists with the ACLU of South Dakota, South Dakota Academy of Family Physicians, South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women, South Dakota for Equality and Black Hills Center for Equality.

As a group, they largely argued that the bill supports freedom and parental rights; that last year’s bill restricted their health care access, led them to seek health care out of state, resulted in negative physical and mental health outcomes, and took away parents’ rights and civil liberties.

“House Bill 1080 told all parents of trans youth that they must be harming their children, not helping them,” Soto said.

Morehead said after HB 1080 passed last year, he went to the doctor with his parents and attempted to get the hormone replacement therapy he needed, but was told it was illegal.

“I no longer had the opportunity to make a choice about being my authentic self with my parents and my doctor. That hurt a lot,” the Lincoln High School senior said. “I’m transgender, I’m proud and all I want to do is walk down that graduation stage feeling proud in my skin.”

Nesiba also noted major medical groups support gender-affirming care for trans youth, including the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Endocrine Society, the Pediatric Endocrine Society and the National Association of Social Workers.

Still, five members of the committee sided with opponents representing Family Voice Action, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota Catholic Conference, South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, South Dakota Parents Involved in Education, a pastor and Rep. Bethany Soye (R-Sioux Falls).

Opponents of the bill leaned heavily on religious messaging, and on the notion that trans children should wait until they’re 18 to make their own decisions on receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy. Several made arguments about puberty blockers are false.

Nesiba countered the opponents’ religious arguments by saying that trans people, too, are made in God’s image. He also pointed out 16-year-olds in the state can get married with the consent of their parents, but can’t get gender-affirming care with the consent of their parents.

Senators Erin Tobin (R-Winner), Sydney Davis (R-Burbank), Brent Hoffman (R-Hartford), Al Novstrup (R-Aberdeen) and Tim Reed (R-Brookings) voted to kill the bill, while Sen. Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission) voted to save the bill. Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) was excused from the vote.