PIERRE, S.D. (BP) — South Dakota and Utah are the latest states to pass laws banning transgender surgeries on children under 18, moving against court challenges to such limitations in other states.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed the Help Not Harm Act on Feb. 3, preventing gender reassignment surgery and drug treatment on children suffering from gender dysphoria, following Utah Gov. Spender Cox’s signature on a similar bill there. Court challenges are promised against the Utah measure already in effect, NBC News reported, and challenges are anticipated against the South Dakota law set to take effect in July.
Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said such legislation is vital in protecting children from harm. Votes in state legislatures have largely fell along party lines, with a handful of Republicans opposing the measures.
“Christians have long said the state has the God-given role to protect innocent lives and that principle absolutely applies here,” Leatherwood told Baptist Press.
“Preventing destructive and life-altering procedures from being performed on children should not be a source of division in the political arena. Instead, this should be something leaders from across the partisan spectrum rally around in an effort to protect the most vulnerable among us.
“Children should not be subject to social experimentation. These proposals will ensure that doesn’t occur in these states.”
Bills are moving through the legislatures in more than two dozen states, the Associated Press reported, including Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
In Tennessee, where transgender surgery is already illegal on prepubescent children, a more encompassing bill banning such surgeries on all children under 18 has passed the Senate. The Tennessee House is set to consider the bill Feb. 23 that would also establish criminal penalties for physicians performing such surgeries.
Similar bills have passed the respective Senates and are now in state Houses in Montana and Oklahoma, according to the state legislature official websites.
In Florida, gender affirming treatment for new adolescent patients was banned in November 2022, by the State Board of Medicine, the AP reported.
Arkansas was the first state to face a legal challenge to its transgender surgery restriction after the legislature overrode then Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the bill in 2021. Arkansas is awaiting a court ruling in a challenge to the law that is temporarily on hold, the AP reported in December 2022, with no indication of when a ruling might be issued. In Arkansas, doctors would also be prohibited from referring patients to other states for such treatment.
Alabama’s law criminalizing the use of puberty blockers and hormones on transgender children 18 and younger has been blocked since May 2022, while a court challenge continues.