Arkansas Senate passes law that would make it first state to ban transgender treatments for youth

Last week, the Arkansas Senate passed legislation that would make it the first state in the union to ban transgender treatments for youth, if signed into law by the Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson.

The ‘Save Adolescents from Experimentation {SAFE} Act’ was met with overwhelming support in the Arkansas State Legislature with the House passing it 70 – 22 and the Senate by 28 – 7. The bill specifically bans: (1) A physician or other healthcare professional from providing gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen years of age. (2) A physician, or other healthcare professional from referring any individual under eighteen years of age to any healthcare professional for gender transition procedures. (3) Public funds from being directly or indirectly used, granted, paid, or distributed to any entity, organization, or individual that provides gender transition procedures to an individual under eighteen years of age.

It argues that the state has an interest in “protecting the health and safety of its citizens, especially vulnerable children,” by stating that “for the small percentage of children who are gender non-conforming or experience distress at identifying with their biological sex, studies consistently demonstrate that the majority come to identify with their biological sex in adolescence or adulthood, thereby rendering most physiological interventions unnecessary.” Republican Sen. Alan Clark, a sponsor of the measure, said before the vote, “This bill sets out to protect children in an area where they very much need protection.”

The bill has also been met with significant opposition. The deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project said the bill was “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.” An Arkansas mother of a transgender boy also told reporters that “denying them access to gender affirming health care is denying them the right to be themselves,” and said that her “son will be devastated if he is forced to stop his hormone treatment.” Other opponents include the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Paediatrics, who have all publicly spoke out against the bill.

Arkansas is not the only state to have acted on this issue. Recently, both Tennessee and Alabama have tabled legislation to make changes to transgender care. Alabama’s Senate approved a bill which makes it a felony to provide care such as puberty blockers or hormones for trans minors, and a Tennessee House Committee also gave a similar bill the green light. Governor Asa Hutchinson has not said whether he supports the measure. A spokeswoman said he will review the bill more closely and listen to the debate on it but did not say when he would decide. He has five days, not counting Sunday, after the bill reaches his desk to sign or veto the legislation before it becomes law without his signature.





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