The North Dakota House passed gender-related bills Friday that would omit transgender identity from state data collection and criminalize health care providers who give gender-affirming care to minors.
The bills still need to go through the Senate and governor to become law.
The first measure would require “male” and “female” — as assigned at birth — to be the only options in state data collection of vital statistics. Supporters of the bill said it would improve the accuracy of public health data, while opponents said it would erase vulnerable populations from data and outreach.
Republican Rep. SuAnn Olson said in support of the bill that it would serve “the interest of being scientifically accurate and statistics being valuable.” For example, she said there shouldn’t be many cases of prostate cancer among females, but such cases could be logged if data isn’t reported based on sex assigned at birth.
Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, of Fargo. said, “This is just a complete overreach of our government. And again, another example of us just trying to limit and erase certain people from our society. … We should be able to collect as much data as we can to make sure that we can help improve people’s lives.”
The bill passed with a 74-18 vote.
Another bill that passed would charge a health care provider with a class B felony for performing gender-affirming surgery on a minor and with a class A misdemeanor for giving puberty-blocking medication to a minor.
The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge has a maximum penalty of 360 days in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Supporters said the bill would protect children from predatory adults and future regrets, whereas opponents said it would further harm transgender children who already have high rates of suicide.
Republican Rep. Brandon Prichard, of Bismarck, said in support: “We need to protect our children from being experimented on. … We have to have a criminal violation for butchering children and for changing them and playing on a dysphoria. We should treat a child’s dysphoria with mental health care. We should not over-medicate them or surgically cut off parts of their body.”
Democratic Rep. Karla Rose Hanson of Fargo responded: “I recognize that some of you in this chamber genuinely believe that this bill and similar bills will protect kids,” but the bills would actually do the exact opposite, she said.
“Gender-affirming care is suicide prevention,” Hanson said. “Prohibiting this care would be devastating for families. … I beg you, let’s keep kids alive.”
The bill passed with a 66-25 vote.
There are 12 Democrats and 82 Republicans in the House. Several Republicans voted against the bills that passed.
Legislation in at least seven other states have LGBTQ-rights advocates worrying about a sweeping Republican-led effort to erase the legal existence of transgender people, deny recognition to nonbinary or gender-fluid people and ignore those who are intersex.
Republican lawmakers in more than two dozen states have pushed for bans on gender-affirming care this year, targeting what doctors and psychologists widely consider medically necessary care.
Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow her on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15