N.D. criminalizes health care for transgender minors

Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law Wednesday a veto-proof bill banning gender-affirming health care for transgender youth. The bill, House Bill 1254, restricts trans health care in the state, immediately making it a crime to give gender-affirming care to people younger than 18.

PBS NewsHour reported the new law takes effect immediately and allows prosecutors to charge a health care provider with a felony — up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines — for performing sex reassignment surgery on a minor.

It also enables prosecutors to charge a provider with a misdemeanor — up to 360 days in prison and $3,000 in fines — for giving gender-affirming medication, like puberty blockers, to a trans child.

The governor’s office released a statement Thursday saying the law is “aimed at protecting children from the life-altering ramifications of gender reassignment surgeries,” although the statement also noted that health care professionals have testified these surgeries are not being performed in the state.

“Going forward, thoughtful debate around these complex medical policies should demonstrate compassion and understanding for all North Dakota youth and their families,” he said.

The law still allows medication treatment for early onset puberty and other rare circumstances with parental consent, and minors currently receiving gender-affirming care will still be able to receive treatment and not be forced to detransition.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, which opposed HB 1254, said in a statement the bill represents vast government overreach that undermines the fundamental rights of parents, and by singling out gender-affirming care for categorical prohibition violates the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Burgum has put the government in charge of making vital decisions traditionally reserved for parents in North Dakota. This ban won’t stop North Dakotans from being trans, but it will deny them critical support that helps struggling transgender youth grow up to become thriving transgender adults,” said Cody Schuler, ACLU of North Dakota advocacy manager.

“Gov. Burgum and supporters of House Bill 1254 have chosen fearmongering, misrepresentations, intimidation and extremist politics over the rights of families and the lives of transgender youth in North Dakota. But this fight is far from over — we are determined to build a future where North Dakota is a safe place to raise every child. As our politicians continue to fail trans youth, it is up to each and every one of us to rise against their fear and ignorance and surround these young people with strength, safety and love.”

North Dakota now becomes the 14th state that has enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors.

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