Media Contact

Janna Farley,

January 17, 2023

The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1080, legislation that would prohibit doctors from providing live-saving gender-affirming care to transgender South Dakotans.

The bill, which was introduced today by Reps. Bethany Soye and Jon Hansen, continues the streak of bills that would codify discrimination against transgender youth that the South Dakota Legislature has attempted to pass over the last seven years.

Like all health care, health care for transgender youth is individualized and based on the needs of each particular person. This bill would take away private health care choices around the provision of medical care consistent with prevailing medical and scientific standards. Such choices should be made between a doctor and a patient, not politicians.

“Anytime policymakers spread lies and misinformation about trans people and their medical care, it’s dangerous,” said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Rather than making medical care more affordable and accessible to people who need it, these legislators are trying to add another barrier, one that will be hardest on some of the most vulnerable people in our state. Transgender kids, like all kids, deserve a chance to experience joy, to learn in a safe environment, to get the health care that they need, and to survive into adulthood. When the government proposes laws that would stigmatize them and undermine their care, they lose those opportunities. The result of legislation like this won’t be that fewer kids grow up to be trans, it will be that fewer kids grow up.”

Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades. However, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers across the country. Federal courts have blocked the enforcement of legislative bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Arkansas and Alabama.

The link between gender-affirming care and improved mental well-being among teens is well documented. A peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that gender-affirming care is associated with significantly reduced rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.

“Every year, South Dakota lawmakers zero in on transgender youth and every year the transgender community is hurt while meaningful problems go unaddressed,” Chapman says. “The more we legislate solutions in search of problems, the more our communities suffer. It’s time we stop these attacks and focus on issues that matter to the people of South Dakota. Discrimination against a marginalized group is a distraction from the state’s real needs and hurts us all.”

About the ACLU of South Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.