". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


South Dakota SAFE Act-Style Bill Lands on Noem’s Desk

February 10, 2023

Both chambers of the South Dakota legislature overwhelmingly voted to protect minors from gender transition procedures, sending the measure, House Bill 1080, to Governor Kristi Noem’s (R) desk on Thursday. Noem now faces intense pressure to sign the bill, which is similar to one her allies at the giant Sanford Health system successfully lobbied to kill during the previous legislative session.

H.B. 1080, styled “Help Not Harm” legislation, prevents a health care professional from administering puberty blockers, administering cross-sex hormones, or performing surgery “for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of, or to validate a minor’s perception of, the minor’s sex, if that appearance or perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex.”

Bill supporters cited evidence from studies in Sweden and elsewhere showing that gender transition procedures did not solve the mental health issues associated with gender dysphoria, but exposed children to a range of harmful, physical side effects. Sweden embraced gender transitions long before the U.S., but after recognizing the possibility for harm from irreversible procedures, Sweden has since prohibited the performance of gender transition procedures on minors.

“As a child I wanted to be a boy,” said South Dakota Rep. Bethany Soye (R), the bill’s House sponsor. “I wore boy clothes, and I came up with a name for myself, and in third grade, I wrote that name on all my class assignments. However, my parents didn’t take me in for chemical treatments; they just supported me, loved me, and allowed me to experience childhood. I went through natural puberty and changed to loving being a girl.”

Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, FRC’s director of the Center for Family Studies, has noted “the dramatic contrast between the 85 percent desistance rate in prepubertal children with gender dysphoria and the reported 100 percent persistence rate in those placed on puberty blockers at the onset of puberty.” That is, most children will re-identify as their birth sex without chemical interference, but chemical interference practically guarantees they will continue to struggle with gender identity.

The South Dakota House voted 60-10 to pass H.B. 1080 on February 2 after the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 11-2 for the measure. The South Dakota Senate voted 30-4 to pass the measure on February 9 after the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-2 for the measure.

During the last legislative session (2020-2021), a similar bill called the Vulnerable Child Protection Act passed the House (46-23), but then the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted down the measure (5-2) after heavy lobbying from Sanford Health. Sanford Health holds enormous power in South Dakota as the state’s largest hospital system (with 15 hospitals in the state) and its largest employer. “Sanford sells puberty blockers and performs gender-reassignment surgery,” reported National Review’s Nate Hochman.

This time, the bill to block harmful gender transition procedures for minors had more momentum. “There are just so many more people behind it this time,” said Soye on “Washington Watch.” She said the momentum came not only “from the normal activist groups” but also from “citizens who are contacting their legislators.”

One reason for the increasing momentum was that more people became convinced that the issue was a live one in South Dakota. “The argument was, ‘Oh, it’s not happening in South Dakota.’ But now you really can’t deny [it] because Sanford is just being so up front with what they’re doing,” Soye explained. After Sanford hosted the third annual Midwest Gender Identity Summit in Sioux Falls, as many as 150 people showed up in the January snow to protest.

Now that the bill has passed the legislature, transgender advocacy groups are organizing their own protests. Susan Williams, executive director of the pro-trans Transformation Project dramatically called the bill “one of the most extreme political attacks on transgender people in recent memory.”

Some media reports suggest that Governor Noem will sign the bill, despite her close ties to Sanford Health lobbyists and past opposition to bills designed to stop biological males from competing in female sports. Noem said in March 2021 that she would sign the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, but then she vetoed it instead.

According to the South Dakota constitution, “Any vetoed bill shall be reconsidered by the Legislature and, if two-thirds of all members of each house shall pass the bill, it shall become law.” H.B. 1080 passed the House with 85% of the vote and the Senate with 88% of the vote, making any attempt by Noem to derail the bill extremely difficult.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.