“In South Dakota,” tweeted Governor Kristi Noem, “we’re celebrating #InternationalWomensDay by defending women’s sports!  I’m excited to sign this bill very soon.” 

The bill hailed by Gov. Noem, is “an Act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports” (HB1217) by restricting participation in male or female athletic teams or sports to students of that biological sex only.  The legislation is South Dakota’s response to the uncertain future of women’s sports following an executive action by President Joe Biden on his first day in office. 

Biden’s Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation directs the heads of agencies to “review all existing orders, regulations, guidance documents, policies, programs, or other agency actions” that “are or may be inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.”  It also calls on agencies to develop actionable plans to carry out this order within 100 days.   

Many believe the order, once put into action by government agencies, will eviscerate women’s sports and render meaningless Title IX protections for women and girls in sports.   

Studies have shown that transwomen players have a distinct advantage over biowomen in sports in biological features such as bigger bone structure, greater lung capacity, and larger heart size.  Moreover, in recent years, transwomen have increasingly outperformed biowomen in major sports competitions from weightlifting to track to cycling.

National polling suggests biological women enjoy public support on the separation of the sexes in sports.  A Harvard/Harris poll conducted in February 2021 found that “55 percent disapprove of Biden’s executive order” to “[r]equire schools to let biological boys who identify as girls to participate in girls sports, and vice versa.”

Yet those who support biological women in the sports arena will need to keep a close watch.  The South Dakota legislation was opposed by some surprising organizations including, according to ABC’s KOTA-TV News in Rapid City, the ACLU of South Dakota, the South Dakota High School Activities Association, the Sioux Falls Sports Authority, the South Dakota Board of Regents, the School Administrators of South Dakota, and The Transformation Project.

Similar legislation is under consideration in other states.  Mississippi, Utah, and Montana have all approved legislation, and bills have been introduced in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas, and Tennessee.