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South Dakota State Rep Proposes Bill to Criminalize Gender-Transition Surgeries on Children

Charlie Lowthian-Rickert, 10, who identifies as a transgender, and father Chris react following a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, May 17, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

South Dakota State Representative Fred Deutsch introduced a bill Tuesday to prosecute medical professionals who attempt to transition children struggling with gender dysphoria, the latest state-level effort to prevent physicians from performing irreversible sex-change surgeries on minors.

The “Vulnerable Child Protection Act” is not Deutsch’s first attempt to limit transgender influence on children. He sponsored a 2016 bill that sought to limit the bathrooms and locker rooms that South Dakota’s transgender students can use, which passed the state legislature, but was vetoed by then-Governor Dennis Daugaard.

In recent months, and with the high-profile custody battle in Texas over James Younger’s potential transition, several states have introduced similar bills, which are intended to punish doctors and healthcare providers who attempt to transition children. Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, and South Carolina have all seen similar efforts at the state level.

“Every child in South Dakota should be protected from dangerous drugs and procedures,” Deutsch said in a statement emailed to National Review. “The solution for children’s identification with the opposite sex isn’t to poison their bodies with mega-doses of the wrong hormones, to chemically or surgically castrate and sterilize them, or to remove healthy breasts and reproductive organs. The solution is compassionate care, and that doesn’t include catastrophically and irreversibly altering their bodies.”

Deutsch’s bill bans any practices “for the purpose of attempting to change or affirm the minor’s perception of the minor’s sex,” including sex-change surgeries, puberty blockers, or the removal of “any otherwise healthy or nondiseased body part or tissue.”

The legislation levels a class-4-felony at any medical professional who orchestrates any of the proscribed procedures.

According to data released in September 2018 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), less than one percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 identify as transgender. More than half have contemplated suicide. The AAP has been outspoken in its defense of a “gender-affirming” approach with children.

“We encourage families, schools and communities to value every child for who they are in the present, even at a young age,” Doctor Cora Breuner, chairwoman for the AAP Committee on Adolescence, said at the time. “As pediatricians and parents, we also appreciate how challenging, and at times confusing, it can be for family members to realize their child’s experience and feelings.”

Proponents of allowing children to transition have accused conservatives like Deutsch, who is a Republican, of turning a health issue into a partisan one.

Following the Younger case, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, which has a membership of 1,300 doctors, released a statement “against public discourse that risks the well-being of transgender and gender diverse youth and their families.”

“I think there are many folks who are not educated who have a lot of confusion, who have a lot of questions,” Cathryn Oakley, the state legislative director for Human Rights Campaign, told Mother Jones. “Opponents of equality have seized on that gap between visibility and understanding, and they’re trying to exploit that.”

Deutsch, however, sees his bill, and further government efforts to prevent children from transitioning, as a real safeguard against a culture of permissive gender experimentation that will harm develop children.

“An ever-increasing number of people who had so-called sex reassignment as minors now find themselves regretting the decision as they’ve matured. Performing irreversible sex reassignment on a minor whose brain is still developing is wrong,” Deutsch said. “But we can try to prevent harm to those who may later regret it by hitting the pause button before someone pushes a child into a mistake today that cannot be corrected tomorrow.”

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