Asa Hutchinson, the governor of Arkansas, has vetoed a bill which would have stopped anyone under the age of 18 getting gender-affirming healthcare involving gender affirmation surgery or medication in the southern state.
The bill would have been the first of its kind in any state in America. The veto comes in the wake of paediatricians, social workers and parents calling for its removal as it would damage trans youth.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, called the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, or SAFE Act, “a vast government overreach,” according to NPR. It would set “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” he said.
However, a simple majority is all that is needed to overturn the veto in the Republican controlled legislature. It had already passed the Senate late last month by a vote of 28-7.
The bill would ban gender-affirming healthcare for under-18s. Doctors would be prohibited from providing hormone treatment or puberty blockers, carrying out gender-affirming surgery or referring trans youth to other providers for treatment.
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.
A number of anti-trans legislative measures have advanced in Republican controlled states in 2021. Hutchinson himself has played a prominent role in this anti-trans agenda. He along with the governors of Mississippi and Tennessee have signed laws banning transgender girls and women from competing on school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. He also recently signed a measure allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections, which opponents say has paved the way for denying LGBTQ+ patients healthcare. The veto of this bill was an unexpected event.
“This is a huge victory for the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas. Thank you to Governor Hutchinson for doing the right thing by rejecting this dangerous bill — the Arkansas state legislature should follow his lead in acknowledging the mental health risks of this bill and let the veto stand,” Sam Brinton, Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project said in a statement.
“We hope this action sends a message to other lawmakers across the country considering similar bans on gender-affirming medical care, which would only work to endanger young trans lives.”
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