The Cowardly Republicans Of South Dakota
By, Madeleine Kearns
For proof that Republicans can be just as lazy, self-serving, and cowardly as Democrats, look no farther than the South Dakota Senate.
As reported by my colleague Tobias Hoonhout, this week Republican senators Duhamel, Rusch, Steinhauer, and Soholt of the Health and Human Services Committee all joined the 5–2 majority that effectively killed a bill designed to make it easier for gender-confused minors to attain financial compensation later in life — should they realize, before age 38, that the doctors who stunted their puberty, destroyed their fertility, and permanently impaired their sexual function had failed to meet the acceptable standards of (what are we calling it these days?) health care.
Listening to the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, as those pathetically useless Republicans did (and as you, too, can do here), it is impossible to come to any other conclusion: When faced with one of the greatest scandals in modern medicine, Republican officials stuck their fat heads between their legs and — well, you know what.
Lest you think I’m being overly harsh, allow me to summarize.
The Vulnerable Child Protection Act, introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives by Republican Fred Deutsch, would deter doctors from experimenting on gender-confused minors with hormones and surgeries by forcing them to consider the long-term consequences — if not for their patients, then for themselves. It passed the House of Representatives by a 46–23 vote last month and was later amended to remove criminal penalties for doctors, inserting a civil cause of action instead. It was a significant bill, not only in the context of South Dakota but nationwide, as part of the coordinated resistance to medical experiments on gender-confused children.
The first witness in favor of the bill was Scott Newgent, a 47-year-old transgender man from Dallas, Texas. (Newgent is a female, lesbian, and mother who — for complicated reasons — recently underwent full chemical and surgical gender transition.) Newgent began by explaining that his own medical transition had cost him just under $1 million; that he will now be “dependent on drugs and doctors for the rest of my life,” and that this is not something a child can consent to. “A hundred medically transitioned adults [are] standing behind me with a signed petition that they are also against medically transitioning children,” he told the Senate.
Newgent explained that the risks and complications of transition are all too often “glossed over.” After undergoing phalloplasty in 2017 — in which skin from his arm was grafted to form a pseudo-penis — he has endured “many medical complications, some of them life-threatening.” The doctors who performed this and other surgeries “couldn’t fix or didn’t want to fix” his plethora of associated problems, such as a reccurring bacterial infection and post-traumatic stress disorder. But Newgent could find no attorney confident enough to file a medical-malpractice suit on his behalf, since “there is no baseline for transgender health.”
Newgent ended his testimony with the powerful statement that “no doctor, psychologist, parent, or anyone else has the right to sign up these kids to become sterile for life and be locked into the medical system for life. Only an adult has the right to decide this.” He warned that, without sufficient protections for minors, we will see a “true suicide epidemic” as these children reach adulthood.
Newgent’s statement was followed by testimony from a 20-year-old woman who “spent a year as a trans man” and was “treated with mega doses of powerful testosterone that ravaged my body, caused me to gain 50 pounds and put me at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and teenage menopause.”
I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a mental health condition. I’m not putting all the blame on the mental health people or the doctors. These are regretful choices I made as a teenager, but I trusted the doctor’s advice.
The young woman said she had not been informed of alternative treatments or told that she might grow to accept her body without hormonal interventions. She warned that “more and more young people are being deceived every day by being told that the solution to their insecurity and identity problems is to get a sex change.”
After that, the Senate heard from doctors and psychiatrists, none of whom — unlike the bill’s opponents — benefit financially from medical transitions. Dr. Michael Laidlaw, a board-certified specialist in endocrinology from Rockland, Calif., warned that these procedures on minors are “dangerous” and “experimental.” He asked the Senate to consider the vested interest of lobby groups: “You wouldn’t trust cigarette manufacturers to give you health information on cigarettes. Why trust activists to give you true information on these harmful hormones?”
Laidlaw observed that “there are no rigorous long-term studies that show that these hormonal and surgical procedures . . . have any beneficial effect,” and pointed to investigations happening worldwide: for instance, in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Brazil.
Side effects include hypertension, cancer risks, permanent lowering of the voice. Males on estrogen have five times risk of deadly blood clots, increased risk of stroke . . . There’s an increased risk of heart attack and death from cardiovascular disease. These hormones are a pathway to sterilization. Surgeries for males include dissecting the penis and placing it into a pelvic wound, removal of the testicles; for girls, removal of the skin of the forearm, and then rolled up to look like a penis and then ovary removal.
Other witnesses emphasized the potential increase in the risk of suicide after medical transition, according to Swedish studies of transsexual adults, as well as the legal merits of the amended bill, which was modest in its scope. One witness, Dr. Don Oliver, another board-certified pediatrician with over four decades of experience and a longtime member of the recently disgraced American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), referenced the words of the world-renowned Swedish child psychiatrist Christopher Gilberg, who had called for an immediate moratorium on this experimentation on gender-confused children, stating that it is “possibly one of the greatest scandals in medical history.”
So, what did the other side have to offer?
Well, they had doctor lobbyists, employed by Sanford Health, a provider of medical transitions, and a lobbyist for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They were (surprise, surprise) opposed to making it easier for patients to sue them later in life, giving the usual spiel about this being a private matter between a patient and their doctor.
They were then joined by some colorful characters with a more spiritual perspective.
A lobbyist for the ACLU began by greeting everyone with a “handshake from [her] heart,” introducing herself as a “queer indigenous two-spirit nonbinary” person. Another witness spoke on behalf of “Julian Bear Runner” of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, informing the Senate that Mr. Bear Runner (whose relevance and absence wasn’t explained) takes “great offense when our civil liberties come under fire by government officials [and] when laws are used as weapons to prohibit the movements and prosperity of [his] people.” Turning the poeticism up a notch, Lauren Stanley, leader of the Rosebud Episcopal Mission, suggested — without any supporting evidence — that the bill would cause the literal deaths of countless children, and asked:
Will you take a shovel and help bury that child? Will you pick up the flowers and place them on the graves? Will you come and explain . . . to the families and friends of the children who are going to die because of this? . . . I will demand that you come to the next funeral that I have to do so you can explain why this harm is being done to my babies.
Since few can be persuaded by such unscientific babble, it is fair to assume that the bill’s naysayers had a monetary incentive. But we need not assume. For David Owen, the president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explicitly said so. He referenced the business boycotts in North Carolina (after they passed their transgender-bathroom bill) and warned about the similar “inadvertent economic consequences this bill may bring to South Dakota.”
Owens compared proponents of the North Carolina bill, who maintained that GDP would grow in spite of boycotts, to those “arguing [that] cutting the arm off a teenager doesn’t count because they got taller.” But is he actually that dense? Doesn’t he realize that South Dakota’s Vulnerable Child Protection Act was designed to prevent doctors from literally cutting healthy body parts off of teenagers? “We have members that are large employers that have called and said they want to support states that are inclusive,” he rambled on, to be joined by Debra Owen, the director of public policy for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. “The bottom line is this,” she said. “As South Dakota moves forward and seeks to be open for business, diversity and inclusion is not an option.”
But no, ma’am. The bottom line is not that. The bottom line is this: American children are being medically experimented on for profit. And we now have a public record showing that Republican cowards in the South Dakota legislature don’t give a damn.
Editor’s note: This article has been revised since its original publication.