Arkansas Governor vetoes ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors

Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill Monday that would have made Arkansas the first state to restrict gender-affirming health care, such as puberty blockers, for transgender minors.

Calling the bill “a major government overreach,” Hutchinson, a Republican, told a news conference that the law would create “new standards of legislative interference with doctors and parents while they deal with some of the business. more complex and sensitive that involve young people. “

The Republican-controlled Arkansas Senate passed the bill last week, and Hutchinson said he expects the General Assembly “likely” to override his veto with a simple majority.

“I am hopeful that my action will get conservative Republican lawmakers to rethink the issue and hopefully come up with a more moderate approach that allows for a study of the science and ethics surrounding the issue before acting,” he said. Hutchinson.

More than three dozen other states are considering bills that target transgender minors, either prohibiting them from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity or restricting access to gender-affirming health care.

Hutchinson and the governors of two other states, Mississippi and Tennessee, have enacted bans on trans athletes.

Hutchinson said during the news conference that major Arkansas medical associations opposed the bill to restrict gender-affirming care, and that denying care to transgender youth may “lead to significant harm to youth by biases. suicide, social isolation and increased drug use. “

The governor said that although the population of trans minors in the state is a minority, “they deserve the guiding hand of their parents and the health professionals that their family has chosen.” He also added that gender confirmation surgery is not performed on people under the age of 18 in Arkansas.

Supporters of the bill said they wanted to “protect” young people from “experimental” medical care, although medical professionals have noted that puberty blockers have long been used to treat precocious puberty in cisgender youth. .

Advocates said Hutchinson’s veto is a victory for trans and non-binary youth in Arkansas.

“Thank you to Governor Hutchinson for doing the right thing in rejecting this dangerous bill; the Arkansas State Legislature must follow suit in recognizing the mental health risks of this bill and letting the veto stand,” he said Sam Brinton, who uses gender neutral pronouns. and is vice president of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, which works to prevent teen suicide.

Brinton said they hope the governor’s action “sends a message to other lawmakers across the country who are considering similar bans on gender-affirming health care that would only work to endanger the lives of trans youth.”

“While they’re at it, we also urge Arkansas to reconsider its misguided ban on trans student-athletes,” Brinton said.

Hutchinson said she views the ban on trans athletes and the restriction of attention that affirms gender as “separate issues.”

The Alabama Senate passed a similar restriction on gender-affirming care, though Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender justice for the American Civil Liberties Union’s HIV and LGBT Project, said it is more extreme than the Arkansas bill, because it includes felony penalties for medical professionals. that provide gender-affirming care to minors.

Strangio said the ACLU will sue any state that passes bans or restrictions on trans athletes on gender-affirming care, though he said he is concerned about litigation that could end up in the Supreme Court.

“People rely too much on court systems to prevent these things from going into effect, and I think we can really be prepared for a rude awakening when we start to see more of this new Supreme Court,” Strangio said of the court, which now has a conservative majority with Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

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