Gov. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., has plans to introduce legislation that would limit participation in female sports, at both the collegiate and K-12 levels, based on the gender on an athlete’s birth certificate.

“This is about fairness,” Noem said. “Every young woman deserves an equal playing field where she can achieve success, but common sense tells us that males have an unfair physical advantage over females in athletic competition. It is for those reasons that only girls should be competing in girls’ sports.”

A draft bill showed Noem restricting athletic participation based on “biological sex,” meaning that which is identified on the student’s birth certificate.

Noem spokesman Ian Fury said that other states’ actions had made the collegiate measure more feasible, since the governors of Florida, Alabama, West Virginia, and other states have signed similar laws as well.

“Given HB 1217’s problematic provisions, there was a higher risk of the entire bill being enjoined if South Dakota were to be sued by the NCAA. If that had happened, no girls in South Dakota would have been protected (at K-12 or collegiate level),” he said. “Now that other states have linked arms, as Governor Noem urged at the time, she is excited to protect girls’ sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, just as she’s done with her executive orders.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent conservative nonprofit, had once accused Noem of “gut[ting] protections for women athletes to placate [national] corporate interests.”

“Gov. Noem proposed changes to House Bill 1217 that would eliminate protections for female college athletes outright and gut the ability for all women and girls to have recourse against unfair policies in women’s sports,” said ADF attorney Kristin Waggoner in March.

Part of Noem’s new bill and the legislature’s proposal include the ability of athletes to sue if they’re adversely impacted by a violation of the restrictions on participation. They also offer educational institutions legal recourse if their compliance with the restrictions incites retribution from athletic organizations and other entities.

In rejecting the legislature’s original bill, Noem had argued its language would create a “litigation hazard” for the state.

“This legislation does not have the problematic provisions that were included in last year’s House Bill 1217,” Noem said. “Those flawed provisions would have led to endless litigation for our state, as well as for the families of young South Dakota athletes — male and female alike.”

Noem’s draft proposal specifically excludes the state legislature’s prerequisite requiring athletes to provide a written statement verifying they haven’t taken any performance-enhancing drugs – a controversial topic in the debate over gender and identity in sports. It also does away with what Noem called an “onerous paperwork requirement” for parents to report on their child’s gender.