PIERRE, S.D. —The South Dakota House of Representatives approved the Vulnerable Child Protection Act with a 46-23 vote Wednesday, Jan. 29.

House Bill 1057 would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a medical professional to perform a gender-affirming operation or surgery or prescribe hormone replacement therapy to aid a child’s gender transition or in an attempt “to change or affirm the minor’s perception of the minor’s sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex,” the bill states.

The bill would prohibit physicians from performing any of the following procedures or treatments on anyone under the age of 16 for the purpose of changing or affirming the child’s sex:

  • Performing the following surgeries: castration, vasectomy, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, metoidioplasty, orchiectomy, penectomy, phalloplasty and vaginoplasty.

  • Performing a mastectomy.

  • Prescribing, dispensing, administering or otherwise supplying the following medications: Puberty-blocking medication to stop normal puberty, supraphysiologic doses of testosterone to females, supraphysiologic doses of estrogen to males.

  • Removing any otherwise healthy or non-diseased body part or tissue.

Nurses would be exempt from prosecution.

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The penalty for a Class 1 misdemeanor is one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.

The House State Affairs Committee passed the bill in an 8-5 vote last week.

District 4 state Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, is the prime sponsor of the bill.

Deutsch said parents, as well as children, are the victims of transgender procedures and treatments, saying, “They follow the advice of their doctors only to realize the harm they have done.”

District 13 state Rep. Kelly Sullivan, D-Sioux Falls, asked the House to vote down the bill.

“What this is telling me is that it’s OK for the government to involve itself in the private family matters of South Dakotans when it’s convenient for the agenda of some,” Sullivan said.

“Why are we legislating and involving ourselves into some aspects of health care but not others?”

District 25 state Rep. Jon Hansen, R-Dell Rapids, asked his fellow representatives to “be not afraid” and pass the bill.

“In the testimony, it was presented that it’s the parents who really consent, it’s not the child,” Hansen said. “That makes sense because the child can’t consent. It’s been covered already. We treat young children differently. We don’t let them smoke, drink, gamble, drive, have sex. It’s a perversion of the whole notion of parental rights to say that a parent can consent to a young child to having sex. We don’t say that. Minors need protection because they’re prone to irrational decisions. They don’t have the reasoning capacity to make these types of decisions.”

District 18 state Rep. Ryan Cwach, D-Yankton, spoke in opposition of the bill, mostly due to the legal implications the bill may have if it is placed into state law.

“There’s maybe 20 patients who are getting some type of therapy; we don’t even know what kind of therapy that is. There’s no record that suggests this meets the criteria of a crisis in this state,” Cwach said.

“I don’t think South Dakota will be able to defend this law in court,” Cwach added, noting how a similar law was contested in North Carolina by the American Civil Liberties Union, then repealed after a preliminary injunction supported the ACLU’s arguments.

“Let’s prevent taxpayer dollars from going to the ACLU and recognize the fundamental liberty of parents,” Cwach said.

In a statement released Wednesday following the House vote on HB 1057, the ACLU of South Dakota stated, “It is unconstitutional to single out one group of people and categorically ban all care, no matter how medically necessary, and if the bill becomes law, the ACLU will challenge it in court.”

“By blocking medical care supported by every major medical association, the Legislature is compromising the health of trans youth in dangerous and potentially life-threatening ways,” said Libby Skarin, policy director for the ACLU of South Dakota, in the news release.

“Discrimination against a marginalized group is a distraction from the state’s real needs and hurts us all. Transgender young people live in our state and need to feel like the government represents them, too. The more we legislate solutions in search of problems, the more our communities suffer.”

The news release also noted how companies and organizations like Sanford Health, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the South Dakota State Medical Association, the South Dakota Retailers Association, the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, LEAD South Dakota and the Human Rights Campaign also oppose HB 1057.

The state Senate will now assign the bill to a committee for consideration, and if passed, it'll go to the Senate floor.