On a Saturday afternoon in August 2019, South Dakota Republican state Rep. Fred Deutsch sent an email to 18 anti-trans activists, doctors, and lawyers with the text of a bill he planned to introduce that would make it a felony for doctors to give transgender children under 16 gender-affirming medical care. “I have no doubt this will be an uphill battle when we get to the session,” Deutsch warned the group. “As always, please do not share this with the media. The longer we can fly under the radar the better.”
The emails demonstrate close collaboration between groups working behind the scenes to push bills banning transgender health care, including ADF—which has defended state-sanctioned sterilization of trans people in Europe—and the ACPeds—which has opposed adoption by gay couples and supported conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth. In recent years, ADF has drafted legislation banning trans children from using school restrooms or playing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. (Both groups are also staunchly anti-abortion; ADF, which drafted the Mississippi abortion ban at the heart of the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, is currently representing ACPeds in a closely-watched lawsuit to ban an abortion pill, mifepristone, nationally.)
“These are groups who we know are not interested in the best-practice care for trans kids,” says Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign. “These bills are coming from national organizations whose purpose is to harm LGBTQ people.”
Inside the secret working group that helped push anti-trans laws across the country
Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters. On a Saturday afternoon in August 2019, South Dakota Republican state Rep. Fred Deutsch sent an email to 18 anti-trans activists, doctors, and lawyers withthe text of a bill he planned to introduce that would make it a felony for doctors to give transgender children under 16 gender-affirming medical care.