Legislative efforts to block gender-affirming care for transgender youths are sweeping parts of the country this week.
The latest measures add to the more than 120 anti-trans bills that have been introduced in state legislatures so far this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
On Tuesday, South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill issuing restrictions on non-surgical and surgical treatments for trans kids.
The legislation, HB 1080, forbids medical professionals from prescribing and administering hormones and puberty-blockers to patients 18 and under, in addition to performing gender-affirming surgeries like facial feminization surgery and mastectomies.
Medical professionals may face civil suits and could lose their licenses if they violate the law, which is set to take effect July 1. Health care workers in South Dakota have until Dec. 31 to wean patients off of gender-affirming treatments, the bill states.
When patients stop taking gender-affirming medication known as puberty blockers, their bodies will begin undergoing puberty as if they had never taken the medication. This can increase depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts, experts say.
Once the legislation takes effect, patients will have the authority to sue providers for prescribing them gender-affirming treatments until they’re 25.
“South Dakota’s kids are our future,” Noem said in a press release announcing the passage of the legislation, dubbed the “Help Not Harm” bill. “I will always stand up for the next generation of South Dakotans.”
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in February ordering the state’s child welfare agency to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse. The move left the parents of transgender kids fleeing the state.
At least two states – Arizona and Utah – have banned similar treatments in the last two years.
The same day that South Dakota’s anti-trans youth bill was signed into law, Tennessee’s Senate passed a ban on gender-affirming care, imposing restrictions on surgeries and medicines used to help trans youth transition if they are under 18.
“Politicians are risking the lives of young people by forcing their way into family decision-making, a fundamental right which has traditionally been protected against government intrusion,” said Tennessee American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Lucas Cameron-Vaughn.
“Gender-affirming care is a critical part of helping transgender adolescents succeed in school, establish healthy relationships with their family and family, live authentically as themselves and dream about their futures,” said Cameron-Vaughn.
Also on Tuesday, the Kansas state Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee held a hearing on a bill that would give residents the right to sue doctors who provide gender-affirming care for kids under 18.
So-called de-transition activists, who said they transitioned during childhood and later transitioned back to their genders assigned at birth, were flown in to provide testimony on their experiences with gender-affirming care, which one said they regretted undertaking.
One of the trips was fully funded by Do No Harm, an organization that opposes gender-affirming care, according to the Kansas Reflector.
The legislation separately states that physicians that continue to offer care once the law is enacted can have their licenses revoked.
In Alabama and Arkansas, federal judges have blocked similar bans from taking effect by questioning its constitutionality. U.S. District Judge Liles Burke, of Alabama, ruled that the court would likely find the law’s restrictions on providing transitioning medications unconstitutional.
Bills elsewhere are likely to face legal challenges if passed.
News of the legislative actions was followed by an open letter sent to The New York Times on Wednesday condemning its coverage of transgender people, in particular children. It was signed by roughly 200 contributors, including “And Just Like That” actress Cynthia Nixon.
The letter took aim at several articles contributors say did not include important context for readers about its sources. What’s more, some articles mentioned were used by Arkansas’ attorney general in defense of a law that would make it a felony, with a potential 10-year sentence, to provide gender-affirming care to minors.
Several celebrities expressed their support for the letter and advocates later protested outside the newspaper’s headquarters in Midtown Manhattan Wednesday.
“Some of us are trans, non-binary or gender nonconforming, and we resent the fact that our work, but not our person, is good enough for the paper of record,” the letter read.
“Some of us are cis, and we have seen those we love discover and fight for their true selves, often swimming upstream against currents of bigotry and pseudoscience fomented by the kind of coverage we here protest.”