Yesterday, the Arkansas General Assembly voted to override Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto on the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, a bill that will prohibit transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy, among other services.
The bill is the first of its kind in the nation and has been publicly reviled by LGBTQ groups and professional medical organizations who argue that the bill will further marginalize a group that is already at risk for higher rates of self-harm and suicide.
“Despite opposition from even their own anti-LGBTQ governor, Arkansas legislators have denied transgender children access to medically-necessary and age-appropriate health care. This is the first law of its kind anywhere in the country, and it is immeasurably cruel to the transgender children who already suffer from higher risks of anxiety, depression, body dysphoria, and suicidal ideation and for whom those risks will only increase without medical care. This broadly unpopular bill is anti-science and dismisses the medical expertise of a wide range of child welfare advocates,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign in a statement.
“Arkansas legislators, against the will of Governor Hutchinson, are not only inviting irreparable harm to their state’s transgender youth, but also economic and reputational consequences to all Arkansans. The Human Rights Campaign condemns this action by the Arkansas legislature and will use every tool at our disposal to fight against this law and for the rights all transgender youth and their families.”
Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill saying that it is “”a product of the cultural war in America,” and that it creates “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”
Pro-LGBTQ groups have vowed legal action to halt the enactment of the law this summer.
“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,” Chase Stangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project said in a statement.
“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.”