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Arkansas bans healthcare for trans kids after cruel lawmakers override governor’s veto

Patrick Kelleher April 7, 2021
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Asa Hutchinson Arkansas trans healthcare ban

Asa Hutchinson. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty)

Arkansas has officially banned gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth after its state legislature opted to override the governor’s veto of a dehumanising bill, which is set to become law.

House Bill 1570 will prohibit medical professionals from offering lifesaving puberty blockers and hormone treatments to trans and non-binary minors in Arkansas.

The bill was passed by the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate in March before making its way to governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk – but he opted to veto the bill on Monday (5 April), calling it “vast government overreach”.

On Tuesday (6 April), the House of Representatives voted by 71-24 to override Hutchinson’s veto while the Senate also voted to override the governor’s intervention by 25-8, meaning House Bill 1570 will become law – pushing trans youth further into the margins.

The decision to override the veto comes after Hutchinson criticised the bill in a speech on Monday, saying it could cause “significant harm” to trans youth.

He told reporters that the law was part of a “cultural war in America” and said it will create a new standard of “legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”

The legislature’s decision has been slammed by LGBT+ organisations. The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention charity for queer youth, condemned lawmakers for criminalising vital healthcare for trans youth.

“To the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas, please know that you deserve love and support and to be affirmed in your gender identity,” said Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project.

“We will not stop fighting until this cruel and illegal ban is overturned,” they continued.

“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.”

Attempting to block Arkansas’ trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted that all major medical associations have opposed the bill, and said it will be taking legal action to challenge the legislation.

“Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth,” said Holly Dickson, executive director at the ACLU of Arkansas.

“As governor Hutchinson noted in his veto message, denying care to trans youth can lead to harmful and life-threatening consequences. This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul.

“Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court.”

Arkansas ban on trans healthcare ‘is anti-science’

Dickson said the ACLU has heard from “concerned families” across Arkansas who are afraid of the impact House Bill 1570 will have on them.

“No matter what these politicians do or say, one thing has not changed: trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives.

“To everyone who spoke out against this bill: now is the time to stay loud, not only for trans lives, but for all the fundamental rights that politicians are hellbent on attacking.”

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, slammed the law as “immeasurably cruel”.

“This broadly unpopular bill is anti-science and dismisses the medical expertise of a wide range of child welfare advocates,” David said.

“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 of all transgender youth and their families.”

Related topics: Arkansas, trans healthcare

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