Transgender surgery bill passes South Dakota House in overwhelming vote

“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Rep. Erin Healy, a Democrat and one of 10 votes against the bill in the 70-person chamber, said.

Rep. Jess Olson, a Republican from Rapid City, speaks against the "Help Not Harm" bill, which bans transgender surgeries and sex hormones for minors. She was one of three Republican votes against the legislation in the Feb. 2 vote.
Jason Harward / Forum News Service

PIERRE, S.D. — A bill to “prohibit chemical castration and cosmetic genital surgeries on children” is on its way to the Senate side of the South Dakota State Capitol, passing the state House by a 60-10, near-party-line vote on Feb. 2

“We have long-lasting decisions that we believe are best for adulthood,” Assistant Majority Leader Taylor Rehfeldt, who sat on the House Health and Human Services committee that heard testimony on the bill, said during a Republican leadership press conference hours before the floor vote. “And then we have that same standard in other areas of law. So that's how we decided to proceed.”

Rep. Jess Olson, one of three Republican votes against the legislation in the chamber, explained she felt that parents already had the ability to stop their kids from taking hormones or undergoing surgery — procedures she questioned were happening in the state.

“If it isn't here, and you can’t have someone tell me it's happening here, then you can’t tell me it's a problem here,” Olson said during floor debate. “And as a conservative, I want to say, we don't need this law.”

Opponents argued the proposed legislation goes against general medical practice and would open up the state to legal action.

Many of the arguments made during testimony on the bill earlier this week were recast by lawmakers on the House floor, with the bill’s main sponsor, Republican Rep. Bethany Soye, of Sioux Falls, defending the proposal against Democratic Rep. Erin Healy, of Sioux Falls, who was one of two votes against the bill in committee.


“This is sensationalism at its finest, and it does not deserve to be heard in our state capitol,” Healy said, challenging Soye to why she had not brought any transgender individuals from South Dakota to testify if the surgeries were harming a significant number.

Soye responded that in, “such a small state,” she had been unable to find anyone willing to testify publicly, though she said affected parents have reached out anonymously in the two days since the bill passed committee.

Were House Bill 1080 to become law, the practical effect would be punishing doctors who prescribe hormonal treatment to or perform gender-related surgeries on kids who identify as transgender.

The proposal’s enforcement mechanism in its current form is a potential loss of professional or occupational licensing for doctors who violate the law, as well as an option for patients to seek recourse in the form of a civil lawsuit for “injury suffered” as a result of covered procedures.

Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or

Jason Harward covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at
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