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S.D. Senate To Debate Bill Banning Treatments For Transgender Teens


Today in South Dakota, a bill that would seek to ban certain treatments for transgender teenagers will be debated in a state Senate committee. This has already passed the state's House of Representatives. And years ago, it might have affected teens like Quinncy Parke.

QUINNCY PARKE: It makes kids like me, who are kids and are very sure of who we are and how we see the world - it makes a very painful impact on us.

GREENE: Quinncy, who is 17, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the distress caused by a mismatch between gender identity and sex assigned at birth. So doctors prescribed puberty blockers. This new bill would criminalize that for anyone under 16. It would also prevent doctors from performing gender affirmation surgery for minors younger than 16. Similar bills have appeared in statehouses across the country. Lee Strubinger with South Dakota Public Broadcasting joins us to talk about this proposed bill. Good morning.

LEE STRUBINGER, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So tell me a little more about what this proposed law would do if it came into effect.

STRUBINGER: So this bill would make it a misdemeanor for doctors in South Dakota to perform gender affirmation surgeries, like mastectomies, or from prescribing puberty blockers, which is a medication that stops hormones that rise during puberty. And it would prevent those for kids under the age of 16. By that age, though, like, most kids have already gone through significant body changes. And pediatricians across the state say these surgeries are not within the standard of care for minors. And the legislation would be a violation of the patient-doctor relationship. But some Republican lawmakers say it's a bill that would protect children.

GREENE: Protect children. OK. So this is - flesh out the argument from these Republicans a bit more, if you can.

STRUBINGER: Sure. Its author is Republican Representative Fred Deutsch, who says it protects them from getting permanent surgery at a young age. And he tells me that last summer, he began to read stories on Twitter about what he calls detransitioners, and that is transgenders, individuals who regret transitioning and change course. He says he was then told to read further about issues on Reddit. And that's when he decided he needed to do something to protect that from happening to kids in the state.

GREENE: And what's been the response...


FRED DEUTSCH: We oversee medicine in South Dakota just like we oversee everything in South Dakota. And it's up to us to define what is appropriate and inappropriate.

STRUBINGER: I should say that this idea is getting a lot of pushback. I spoke with Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who says very few people detransition and that she believes this bill is not written with concern for transgender people. The bill doesn't have any support from Democrats in the state House, who are a super minority party here in the capital. And transgender people in the state, as well as some of their families, have also spoken out against the bill.

GREENE: OK. So that sort of frames the conversation around this. What is the process here? Where does the bill go from here? I mean, it's been voted on already in the House, right?

STRUBINGER: It's been voted on in the House. It's made its way over to the state Senate. As you mentioned, it'll be debated and probably voted on today in the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee. But no matter what happens here, similar language is popping up in bills and statehouses across the country. But already, the ACLU of South Dakota says they will challenge the law if signed by Republican Governor Kristi Noem. And it's unclear whether she will sign the bill if it reaches her desk. She's indicated she has concerns with the legislation.

GREENE: All right. Lee Strubinger is the political reporter with South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Thanks so much for your time, Lee.

STRUBINGER: Yeah, thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF HERZELOYDE'S "STORIES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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