South Dakota State Rep. Twists MLK Quote to Justify Trans Healthcare Ban
A South Dakota State Representative quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech voicing her support for South Dakota House Bill 1080. The proposed legislation would prohibit virtually any form of gender affirming care for transgender individuals until they reach the age of 18.
The bill, one of a slew of anti-transgender legislative proposals being floated by state governments throughout the country, prohibits doctors in South Dakota from prescribing any medication or performing any surgery intended to affirm a person’s gender identity before the age of legal adulthood. Following its initial reading in the House, the bill is now headed to the state’s House Health and Human Services committee.
During her address to the House, State Rep. Brandei Schaefbauer (R-Aberdeen), quoted a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1966 address to Illinois Wesleyan University on the progress of race relations in the United States. In the address, King spoke to the power of legislation to dismantle oppressive systems of racial segregation, and penalize violence committed against Black Americans.
“It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can legislate desegregation,” Schaefbauer quoted. “Morality cannot be legislated but behavior can be regulated… It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, religion and education will have to do that, but it can restrain him from lynching me.” Schaefbauer ended the quote on King’s assertion that “while legislation may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men.”
Changing “habits” is exactly what Schaefbauer and hundreds of other GOP legislators around the country are aiming to do—by legally restricting the ability of transgender individuals to access life-saving medical care. King’s quote, an appeal to the power lawmakers have to dismantle systems of discrimination against marginalized groups, was effectively misconstrued by Schaefbauer to further a hateful legislative agenda against transgender individuals.
While studies show that access to gender-affirming care significantly improves outcomes for trans and non-binary people, trans rights have become a target in the right-wing culture wars. Schaefbauer is not alone. Just today the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill banning students in the state from accessing bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Other states, including Arizona, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida, among others, have introduced or advanced bills targeting trans individuals. Several states have passed legislation restricting education in LGBTQ issues in school health programs.
The national effort to legislatively malign transgender and gender nonconforming people is symbiotic to the far-right’s cultural crusade to villainize the LGBTQ community and their supporters as deviant, dangerous criminals. The so-called “groomer” panic has proliferated throughout right wing rhetoric, anyone and anything can be construed to constitute child abuse, and right-wing personalities are happy to state exactly how they think the matter should be dealt with.
On Wednesday, Daily Wire host Matt Walsh called for the execution—or at least lifetime imprisonment—of doctors who perform gender-affirming surgeries on minors. And in a video posted on Tuesday, former president Donald Trump vowed to pass a nationwide ban on gender-affirming care for minors. Trump, Walsh, and figures ranging from conservative social media influencers to state Governors, have proliferated narratives that members of the LGBTQ community and their allies are supporters of child sexual abuse. The fear mongering has expanded to include gender-affirming medical care, with horrific claims of child mutilations being leveled against healthcare providers. But the reality is much different.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards for care indicate that supportive care and access to mental health professionals is recommended for young children exploring their gender identity. Adolescents, with the guidance of medical professionals and approval of their parents or legal guardian, can explore medical transition via puberty blockers or hormones. In every issued guidance, the WPATH’s standards for care enforce rigorous psychological and physical evaluation before any sort of procedure is done, and does not recommend major surgeries until adulthood.
But reality isn’t stopping the flurry of legislation restricting the rights of trans individuals. And the increasing climate of hostility against both patients and providers has already resulted in instances of violence. States are codifying discrimination and disenfranchisement against an already vulnerable population, but the Republican Party has proven time and time again that while its members can read the words of Dr. King, they can never truly understand what they mean.
Stormy Daniels on Trump Indictment: 'It’s Vindication'
- Poetic Justice