Some transgender youth treatments banned in Arkansas

It is the first state in the US to outlaw certain types of treatments, drawing ire from rights groups and big business.

Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed a transgender youth treatment ban, which was ultimately passed by the state legislature [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Arkansas on Tuesday became the first US state to ban certain types of treatment to transgender youth, overriding a veto by Governor Asa Hutchinson and inviting lawsuits from civil rights groups that have pledged to stop it.

The law threatens any healthcare professional who provides puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender-affirming surgery to minors with the loss of their medical licence and opens them up to lawsuits from patients who later regret their procedures.

It is one of many laws being considered around the US: At least 16 other states are debating similar legislation, which transgender advocates have attacked, saying that cutting off badly needed care to adolescents would inevitably lead to more suicides.

Hutchinson, a Republican, vetoed the bill Monday following pleas from paediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide. The override, which needed only a simple majority, passed easily in both Republican-majority chambers, with the state House voting 72-25 in favour and the Senate 25-8.

The ban was opposed by several medical and child welfare groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“This legislation perpetuates the very things we know are harmful to trans youth,” Dr Robert Garofalo, division head of adolescent and young adult medicine at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told reporters on a news conference call held by the Human Rights Campaign. “They’re not just anti-trans. They’re anti-science. They’re anti-public health.”

The bill’s sponsor dismissed opposition from medical groups and compared the restriction to other limits the state places on minors, such as prohibiting them from drinking.

“They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions,” Republican Representative Robin Lundstrum said.

The Family Council, a conservative group that backed the measure, praised legislators for enacting “historic legislation”.

Hutchinson said the measure went too far in interfering with parents and physicians, and noted that it will cut off care for transgender youth already receiving treatment. He said he would have signed the bill if it had focused only on gender confirming surgery, which currently is not performed on minors in the state.

“I do hope my veto will cause my Republican colleagues across the country to resist the temptation to put the state in the middle of every decision made by parents and health care professionals,” Hutchinson said in a statement after the vote.

The law will take effect in late July at the earliest. The American Civil Liberties Union said it planned to challenge the measure before then.

“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul,” Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas’ executive director, said in a statement.

A person holds up a flag during a rally to protest against the Trump administration’s reported transgender proposal to narrow the definition of gender to male or female at birth in New York City, on October 24, 2018 [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

The ban was enacted during a year in which bills focused on transgender people have advanced easily in Arkansas and other states.

Hutchinson recently signed legislation banning transgender women and girls from competing on teams consistent with their gender identity, a prohibition that also has been enacted in Tennessee and Mississippi this year.

Hutchinson also recently signed legislation that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections.

Another bill advanced by a House committee earlier Tuesday would prevent schools from requiring teachers to refer to students by their preferred pronouns or titles.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, said more than 100 bills have been filed in statehouses around the country aimed at the transgender community. Similar treatment bans have been proposed in at least 20 states.

The foundation established by the family of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart’s founder on Tuesday raised concerns about the recent measures in the state targeting LGBTQ people.

“This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state,” Tom Walton with the Walton Family Foundation said in a statement released before the override vote.

One lawmaker opposed to the measure compared it to the anti-integration bills Arkansas’ Legislature passed in 1958 in opposition to the previous year’s desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.

“What I see, this bill, is the most powerful again bullying the most vulnerable people in our state,” Democratic Senator Clarke Tucker said before the vote.

Source: News Agencies