South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem has signed a bill banning gender-affirming health care for any transgender person under 18, despite warnings from families, advocates, health care providers and transgender people themselves. The ACLU and the ACLU of South Dakota have stated that this ban will deny struggling transgender youth the necessary support that enables them to become thriving transgender adults. South Dakota has become the fourth state to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with Utah being the first state to pass a similar ban last month.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, has condemned the law’s passing, stating that it denies transgender and nonbinary youth crucial support and care. According to The Trevor Project’s 2022 U.S. National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by State, 53% of LGBTQ youth in South Dakota seriously considered suicide in the past year, with nearly 1 in 5 (19%) making an attempt. Research consistently shows that transgender medical care is associated with positive mental health outcomes, including reduced suicide risk.
A 2021 study by The Trevor Project found that gender-affirming hormone therapy significantly reduces depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth. Nevertheless, Governor Noem signed the bill despite opposition, with the new law denying transgender and nonbinary youth access to best-practice medical care. The law also impacts the mental health of transgender youth, with 86% saying that recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people negatively impacted their mental health.