Arkansas Legislature Overrides Governor Veto, Bans Transgender Treatment for Children


On Tuesday, the Arkansas state legislature overrode a veto from Governor Asa Hutchinson to pass a bill banning gender-identity-affirming medical procedures and drugs for minors.

As we explained last week, the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act” is the first of its kind in the nation and prohibits doctors from administering or providing referrals for any procedures or the administration of drugs for minors seeking to live their life according to their gender identity.

The bill does not prohibit minors who identify as transgender from seeking psychological counseling or support.

On Monday, ABC News reports, Governor Hutchinson said in a press conference he believed the bill was an example of “government overreach” and that it was not the state’s job to interfere with “every ethical health decision.”

Hutchinson painted the explanation for his veto in the language of conservative philosophy, arguing the state did not have the right to interfere in such cases.

“You are starting to let lawmakers interfere with health care and set a standard for legislation overriding health care,” the Republican governor said. “The state should not presume to jump into every ethical health decision.”

The bill “would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients, and health care experts,” Hutchinson said. “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.”

“Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained…This is an example of where restraint is better than over-broad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society,” he also said.

Under the bill, it will be illegal for so-called gender reassignment surgery, hormones, and puberty blockers to be administered to those under the age of 18.

These days, the mainstream medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that children receive medical treatment that corresponds with their gender identity.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space,” AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said in a statement last month, as ABC News noted. “[The] legislation would allow policymakers rather than pediatricians to determine the best course of care for our patients, and in some medically underserved states, it could mean losing an already limited number of pediatric practitioners who care for transgender youth.”

However, critics say that such treatment, which is often irreversible, should not be administered to such a young child, particularly when data suggests that many children who wish to transition while they are young often end up identifying as their biological gender when they reach adulthood. This figure can be as high as 90% according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as cited by Arkansas state lawmaker Sen. Alan Clark during the debate for the bill.

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