On Monday afternoon, Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed legislation that would have made Arkansas the first state to ban gender-affirming health care treatment for transgender youth.
The bill aimed to ban doctors from providing transgender people under the age of 18 with treatments including hormone therapies, puberty blockers, and transition-related surgeries, and from referring them for these treatments. State lawmakers in at least 17 other states have introduced similar bills aiming to ban medical treatment for trans minors.
“If (the bill) becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said at a news conference.
Major medical organizations, pediatricians, social workers and mental health professionals, and parents of transgender youth have been in staunch opposition to this bill, which threatened to harm an already vulnerable community. Trans youth are at a higher rate for depression, self-harm, and suicide, and blocking their ability to access health care treatment only further isolates and harms them.
“The bill is over broad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” he said. “In other words, the young people who are currently under a doctor’s care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect.”
Chase Stangio, deputy director for transgender justice at ACLU, has called this bill “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass though a state legislature.” Today, after the governor announced his decision, Stangio tweeted, “It will be hard to sustain but this is SO MEANINGFUL… Thank you to everyone who called, emailed, tweeted Gov. Hutchinson. This is a powerful rebuke of this nightmare legislation.”
In a hearing for the bill, Cash Ashley, a transgender man in Arkansas, said, “If this bill passes, people will die.” If he had received gender-affirming care as a teenager, “I may not have tried to take my own life.”
“The world is already a hostile place for trans people, especially trans youth,” Ashley said. “Trans people have always been here, we will always be here, and you cannot erase us. Please stop trying.”
Sources: Washington Post 4/5/21; ABC News 4/5/21; Twitter 4/5/21