It’s curious that in one of the reddest states in the nation, which boasts both a Republican governor and a whopping 90 percent GOP majority legislature, the child-mutilation business would be allowed not only to exist but to flourish. But thanks to Gov. Kristi Noem’s repeated failures to cut ties with radical gender ideology and its proponents, next week two of South Dakota’s government contractors will host a “Midwest Gender Identity Summit” in the Mount Rushmore State.
The event — hosted by Sanford Health, the Dakotas’ top health care system, and the Transformation Project, a radical transgender ideology activism organization that targets children — is aimed at medical professionals and purportedly seeks to “review the needs of transgender patients in healthcare.”
One of the summit’s co-hosts, the Transformation Project, is responsible for aiding what The Washington Post called an “advocacy campaign that has made cherry-red South Dakota the unlikely epicenter of a transgender uprising on the American Great Plains.”
When reports surfaced that the South Dakota government funneled $136,000 to the Transformation Project via a government contract for a community health worker program, Noem’s office rightly demanded the Department of Health quickly cut ties.
“South Dakota does not support this organization’s efforts, and state government should not be participating in them,” Noem told The Daily Signal. “We should not be dividing our youth with radical ideologies. We should treat every single individual equally as a human being.”
Noem is correct that government, especially when controlled by the GOP, should not enable business that promotes harmful ideologies and the sterilization and disfigurement of children’s bodies.
Yet her government still maintains three $78,000 contracts with Sanford Health, the other co-host of the upcoming transgender summit, for the development of community health worker programs in Clear Lake, Sioux Falls, and Vermillion.
As National Review’s Nate Hochman documented earlier this week, Noem’s office and the state’s Republican legislators regularly engage with and leverage the soft power of Sanford Health.
It’s hardly uncommon for governments to be beholden to certain interests, and South Dakota’s closeness to the “largest rural health system in the United States” is no exception. Sanford is the Dakotas’ biggest employer, so it’s no surprise that plenty of Sanford-employed or -connected South Dakotans have made their way into the state’s government or to Noem’s roundtable.
What is uncommon is that a state that prides itself on being led by Republicans for decades routinely embraces the counsel of an organization that offers mutilative surgeries — such as mastectomies, which are known by the euphemism “top surgery” — to kids. Not only does Sanford profit from maiming minors, but it routinely lobbies against legislation that protects medical professionals’ conscience rights and would ban the mangling and drugging of children in the name of transgenderism.
Despite Sanford’s anti-conservative track record, the company once considered to be the governor’s “top donor” still sits in a position of influence with the governor and her GOP allies.
When asked whether Noem would continue to take donations from Sanford despite their long history of lobbying against the sort of socially conservative policies that South Dakota voters expect their Republican government to embrace, her office did not directly answer the question.
Instead, Noem’s Chief of Communications Ian Fury directed The Federalist to a Twitter thread in which he not only defended Noem’s decision to reject a 2021 bill that would have protected girls’ sports, but also ripped on Hochman for bringing Noem’s ties to Sanford and other problematic lobbyists to light.
“Governor Noem and these groups have been on opposite sides of many issues,” Fury tweeted on Thursday evening, claiming later that Noem is “the most conservative Governor in America.”
Fury admitted that Sanford has a history of opposing pro-life policies and lobbying in favor of health care legislation that did not meet the governor’s standard. Yet he refused to address why the company and its activist allies, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations and the South Dakota State Medical Association, still have close political and advisory relationships with Noem and other South Dakota Republicans.
Over the last few years, Noem has repeatedly had opportunities to reject the left’s creeping grasp on Midwest institutions, especially when it comes to radical LGBT ideology. When South Dakota State University hosted a so-called “kid-friendly” drag show, Noem didn’t offer to fire any of the school’s governing regents even though she has the power to do it. When South Dakota’s Family Heritage Alliance Action Executive Director Norman Woods wrote Noem a letter expressing disappointment that the governor had failed to protect her constituents, Noem said he was the one who should be fired.
For years now, Noem has prioritized business interests, even when medically coercive, over her conservative voters and values. And instead of reliably standing firm against leftism and defending her constituents, Noem enabled the left’s agenda and then cried “cancel culture” when she was criticized for her cowardice.
It was Noem’s “top advisor,” lawyer and Sanford Health lobbyist Matt McCaulley, who pushed her to walk back her support for the sports bill. Noem reportedly announced her veto the same day McCaulley’s client Sanford Health funneled $40 million to an expansion of its sports complex.
If it weren’t for her initial buckling on the key legislation that would have protected girls’ sports, Noem might still be considered a front-runner for the 2024 presidential ticket. Instead, she has repeatedly sacrificed her voters, her conservative career, and key culture war ground by subjecting herself to the whims of corporate interests.
If Noem wants a chance to be taken seriously as a conservative stakeholder, she can start by wiping out her state’s relationship with Sanford Health and any other facilitators of transgender mutilation.