Media Contact

Janna Farley,

February 7, 2024

Ignoring strong opposition from South Dakota medical experts, parents, transgender youth and advocates, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today voted to kill Senate Bill 216, legislation that would have given parents the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of their children with gender dysphoria.

The ACLU of South Dakota supported Senate Bill 216, common-sense legislation that prioritizes parents and pediatricians – not politicians. The bill would have amended South Dakota’s law that bans gender-affirming care and allow doctors to provide puberty blockers or hormonal treatment – nonsurgical medical care consistent with prevailing medical and scientific standards – to trans kids only with parental consent.

“Across the country and right here in South Dakota, lawmakers have been sticking their noses into matters they shouldn’t – specifically heath care decisions that have been traditionally reserved for parents," said Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. "We don't need a law that substitutes the state's judgement for that of loving parents who are following the guidance of their children and the advice of doctors. We had the opportunity to right that wrong with Senate Bill 216. It’s unfortunate that lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Committee put discriminatory rhetoric ahead of the health and well-being of the most vulnerable population in our state.”

Like all health care, health care for transgender youth is individualized and based on the needs of each particular person. Research shows that providing appropriate care to trans kids improves mental health outcomes, including decreased rates of depression and anxiety, substance use and suicide attempts. Doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth for decades, and it is supported by every major medical association, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

Additionally, singling out gender-affirming care for categorical prohibition violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.  In more and more cases, the courts agree.

Last summer, a federal judge in the 8th Circuit Court – the same jurisdiction South Dakota falls under – permanently blocked an Arkansas law that aimed to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The judge said the law, which is similar to South Dakota's, violates the constitutional rights of transgender youth, their parents, and their medical providers. Last week, a federal judge in the 9th Circuit blocked an Idaho law that would ban gender-affirming care for trans youth.

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.