Arkansas becomes first state to pass bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth

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Erin Snodgrass,Canela López,Yelena Dzhanova
·3 min read
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • Arkansas passed a bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth.

  • The Senate passed the bill Monday in a 28-7 vote. The House passed the bill earlier this month.

  • The legislation now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk to be signed.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Arkansas became the first state to pass a bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth following a vote in the state Senate on Monday.

HB 1570, the "Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act," prohibits trans youth from accessing health care and insurance coverage for gender-affirming care. The bill passed 28-7 in the state Senate. The state House passed the bill earlier this month.

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The bill would prohibit doctors from offering gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to trans minors. Doctors would also be unable to refer minors to other providers for treatment.

The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk for signature. He has not publicly said whether he supports the legislation. The governor has five days, not including Sunday, to sign or veto the bill before it becomes law.

If signed, the bill would become the first in the nation to target trans health care. It would take effect this summer.

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Opponents say if the legislation is enacted, it would be the first prohibition of its kind in the US. LGBTQ advocacy groups, child welfare organizations, and medical professionals have criticized the legislation.

Medical best practice guidelines from the Endocrine Society, Child Mind Institute, and American Psychological Association all recommend that states provide gender-affirming care for trans children.

Studies have shown children who are unable to access gender-affirming care experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than trans youth with supportive doctors and families. A 2020 study published in Pediatrics found that the earlier transgender youth get care, the less likely they are to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.

Getting gender-affirming care before puberty can slow or stop some of the changes that are more difficult to reverse, such as voice deepening, hair growth, and fat distribution.

LGBT and human-rights groups slammed the bill's passing and are urging Hutchinson to reject it.

"There is no sugarcoating this: this bill is another brazen attempt to make it easier to discriminate against people and deny Arkansans the health care services they need," said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, in a statement.

"Discrimination on the basis of sex - including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity - is a violation of federal law, and so we'll be watching and working to ensure no Arkansan is denied life-saving health services because of who they are," Dickson's statement continued.

Hutchinson's office, when reached for comment, did not directly answer whether the governor planned to sign the bill.

"The Governor will review the bill more closely, listen to the debate, study it and make a decision on the legislation," said Communications Director Katie Beck.

Arkansas's HB1570 comes amid a surge of anti-trans bills being considered in state legislatures across the country this year. Insider previously reported that 28 states are voting on anti-trans legislation in 2021.

Arkansas has also proposed two bills that would prevent trans youth from participating in school sports: SB354 and SJR16.

The last major survey that quantified the number of trans people nationwide was conducted in 2015 by the Williams Institute. The survey, released in August 2016, found that there were about 13,400 trans people in Arkansas out of a population of about 3 million at the time.

Read the original article on Business Insider