Arkansas Senate passes bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth

According to Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union, the bill is the "most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature".


On Monday the Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 in favour of a bill that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for under-18s. As well as surgery and hormones, the law would also stop trans youth from accessing puberty blockers, the effects of which are fully reversible. If enacted, doctors would be banned from providing this care or from referring trans youth to other providers for treatment.

Having been passed through the Senate, the bill must now be signed off by state governor, Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson, who is a Republican, has previously signed anti-trans bills into law, including the ban on trans girls competing in girls’ school sports, and legislation allowing doctors to refuse treatment on religious or moral grounds. If passed by the governor the law will come into effect this summer.

The bill has been opposed by human rights groups and medical organisations alike. At a press conference on Monday, the president of the American Academy of Paediatrics, Dr Lee Savio Beers, condemned the bill saying “medical professionals and not politicians really need to be the ones to decide what medical care is in the best interests of a patient in accordance with medical best practices”

The American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society and the American Psychiatric Association are among the other major American medical organisations that have supported gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth and opposed attempts to restrict this treatment.

Arkansan paediatric doctor Michele Hutchison testified in front of the state Senate last week, saying that just after the bill passed through the House, there were “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week.” Research has shown that gender-affirming healthcare such as puberty blockers can reduce the risk of suicidal ideation for trans people.

According to NBC News, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the bill “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.” Strangio added that the ACLU will launch a legal challenge against the legislation if it passes or if other states pass similar measures.

Celebrities have also spoken out against the proposed law. In a video recorded for the ACLU, actress Laverne Cox condemned the bill and others like it for targeting children and criminalising doctors for providing “medically necessary healthcare”. Cox also said, “I encourage us to look at this in the context of years-long attempts to stigmatise and further marginalise trans people and have that stigma codified into law.”

Writer Raquel Willis spoke out on Twitter saying “transphobes don’t just strip trans women of being women and trans men of being men … as you can see in Arkansas and states across the country, they strip trans children of being children, and essentially, they strip all trans people of simply being people”

Arkansas is among the many states to have advanced anti-trans legislation this year. In the first three months of 2021, conservative legislators in the US introduced more than 80 bills restricting trans rights, most of which either relate to blocking access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth or restricting trans people’s access to sports.

Three states, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, have all signed trans athlete bans into law, while Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee have advanced legislation to limit access to trans healthcare. Alabama’s bill, which the state Senate passed this month, would ban healthcare for trans people up to the age of 19, includes felony penalties and would prevent public funds, such as Medicaid, from being used for medical transition.

Speaking on the issue, Chase Strangio said “I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed.”

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