Arkansas Becomes First State to Ban Health Care for Transgender Youth

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Tim Teeman
·3 min read
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Drew Angerer/Getty
Drew Angerer/Getty

Arkansas has become the first state in America to ban the provision of gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth.

The state’s legislature voted Tuesday to override Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto yesterday of House Bill 1570, which bans transition care for trans minors, prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Vetoes Anti-Trans Teen Health-Care Bill

Opponents of HB 1570, including the ACLU, have already said they will challenge the bill in the courts before it becomes law this summer.

The Arkansas House voted 71 to 24 to override Hutchinson’s veto, and the Senate voted 25-8 to do the same.

In a statement, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU's LGBTQ & HIV Project, said, “The Arkansas Legislature has ignored dozens of local doctors and national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents. This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to the transgender young people who are watching in fear. Gender-affirming care is life-saving care and banning that care will have devastating and in some cases deadly consequences.

“Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you. The ACLU is preparing litigation as we speak. ACLU supporters from around the country spoke out against this bill. We will always have your back and will be relentless in our defense of your rights.”

Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project, said, “Governor Hutchinson listened to trans youth and their doctors, the state legislature clearly did not. We knew this override could happen, but it is nonetheless devastating because we also know it could have deadly consequences.

“It is not extreme or sensational to say that this group of young people, who already experience disproportionate rates of violence and suicide attempts, would be put at significantly increased risk of self-harm because of legislation like HB 1570 pushing them farther to the margins of society.”

At a press conference Monday, Hutchinson explained his veto. “I was told this week the nation is looking to Arkansas because I have on my desk another bill passed by the General Assembly that is a product of the cultural war in America. I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible. But the most recent action of the General Assembly, while well intended, is off course. And I must veto House Bill 1570.”

“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care overriding parents, patients, and health-care experts,” Hutchinson continued. “While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human, and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson already signed Senate Bill 354 into law on March 25, preventing trans girls and women from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity. Hutchinson also recently signed a law allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a law whose opponents believe will be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.

There are currently over 170 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures, many focused on trans teens’ access to playing sports and receiving adequate medical care. Tennessee and Mississippi have already passed laws against trans girls’ participation in youth sports, while Gov. Kristi Noem has signed executive orders to do the same in South Dakota after the state legislature did not ultimately pass a bill to do the same.

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