A South Dakota state lawmaker said Tuesday that he regrets recently comparing doctors who assist in the gender reassignment process for transgender youth in the state to Nazi doctor experiments that occurred during the Holocaust.
Republican state Rep. Fred Deutsch first made the comments during an interview last week with the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group that lobbies on a number of issues both cultural and political from “a biblical worldview.” In the interview, the lawmaker discussed a bill he’s sponsoring that would make it a misdemeanor for physicians or any other medical professionals to perform gender reassignment surgeries on minors or to provide patients 16 and younger with hormones, even if the minor is emancipated.
“Well, you know, if you care about kids I think you have to prioritize them. And, you know, in South Dakota we don’t allow mutilation of our children – I don’t care if it’s doctors, I don’t care if it’s parents. … These kids on the internet, they share these pictures of themselves that just blow you away – of all these surgical scars and it’s terrible. That should not ever be allowed,” Deutsch said.
He continued: “To me, that’s a crime against humanity, when these procedures are done by these so-called doctors, you know, that dance on the edge of medicine. I just don’t think it should be done. I think – you know, I’m the son of a Holocaust survivor. I’ve had family members killed in Auschwitz. And I’ve seen the pictures of the bizarre medical experiments. I don’t want that to happen to our kids. And that’s what’s going on right now.”
Deutsch said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday that he regrets making the comparison.
“Comments I made based on my history of being the son of a Holocaust survivor are regrettable,” he wrote.
The Democratic minority leader of the state’s House of Representatives told CNN Tuesday that Deutsch’s comparison was untrue and “unfortunate.”
“That’s not what’s happening in the state of South Dakota or anywhere in our country,” state Rep. Jamie Smith said. “I totally don’t agree with him.”
During the Holocaust, some concentration camp prisoners were forced to undergo cruel experiments by Nazi doctors that sometimes resulted in death. The experiments horrified the global community and, following World War II, resulted in the establishment of the Nuremberg Code, which provides ethical standards for scientific and medical research involving human subjects.
The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee approved Deutsch’s bill, House Bill 1057, last Wednesday by 8-5. It now moves to the full state House for a vote.
Nearly half of the 105 members of South Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature sponsored the bill, including Republican House Speaker Steven Haugaard.
The speaker did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on Tuesday.
Deutsch, who in 2016 proposed restricting transgender students’ bathroom access in public schools, recently told CNN he proposed the new measure after some studies on the safety of puberty-blocking hormones were inconclusive. “The bill will serve as a pause button until the minor is old enough to make informed decisions,” he said.
The bill does, though, allow doctors to operate on infants who are born intersex, an umbrella term used to describe people born with bodies that are perceived as differing from typical male and female categories.
Smith, who opposes the legislation, said he hopes the bill is blocked and that his party is “doing everything we can to stop it.”
CNN’s Scottie Andrew contributed to this report.