Arkansas has become the first state to ban gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth, after lawmakers overruled the governor’s objections to enacting the ban on Tuesday.
State Governor Asa Hutchinson had vetoed the bill on Monday following pleas from pediatricians, social workers and parents of trans youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk of depression and suicide. Several medical and child welfare groups opposed the ban, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.
However, the Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to override Hutchinson’s veto.
The ban prohibits doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under the age of 18, or referring them to other providers for treatment. The treatments are part of a gradual process that can greatly improve the mental health of young people and can save their lives, experts say.
Opponents of the measure have vowed to file a lawsuit to block the ban before it takes effect this summer.
“This legislation perpetuates the very things that we know are harmful to trans youth,” Dr. Robert Garofalo, chief of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said in a news conference held. by Human Rights Campaign. “They are not only anti-trans. They are anti-science. They are against public health. “
The bill’s sponsor rejected opposition from medical groups and compared the restriction to other limits the state imposes on minors, such as banning them from drinking.
“They need to get to 18 before they make those decisions,” said Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum.
Hutchinson said the measure went too far by interfering with parents and doctors, noting that it will disrupt care for trans youth already receiving treatment. He said he would have signed the bill if it had focused only on gender-affirming surgery, which is not currently performed on minors in the state.
“I hope my veto will make my Republican colleagues across the country resist the temptation to put the state in the middle of all the decisions that parents and healthcare professionals make,” Hutchinson said in a statement after the vote.
The law will take effect at the end of July at the earliest. The American Civil Liberties Union said it planned to challenge the measure before then.
“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over, and we are in it for the long haul,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, in a statement.
The ban was enacted during a year in which bills targeting trans people have advanced easily in Arkansas and other states. Hutchinson recently signed legislation that prohibits trans women and girls from competing in teams consistent with their gender identity, a ban that has also been enacted in Tennessee and Mississippi this year.
Hutchinson also recently signed legislation that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone due to moral or religious objections.
And the legislature shows no sign of budging. Another bill introduced by a House committee early Tuesday would prevent schools from requiring teachers to refer to students by their preferred pronouns or titles.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights group in the United States, said that more than 100 bills have been introduced in public powers across the country targeting the trans community. Similar treatment bans have been proposed in at least 20 states.
Clarke Tucker, a Democratic lawmaker who opposed the measure, compared it to anti-integration bills that the Arkansas legislature passed in 1958 in opposition to desegregating Little Rock Central High School the previous year.
“What I see, this bill, is again the most powerful that intimidates the most vulnerable people in our state.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism