Arkansas Legislature Bans Trans Kids From Accessing Health Care

The harmful, anti-science bill is on the Governor's desk, and he is likely to sign it.

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In 29 states, transgender kids have no legal rights. Trans kids have no right to employment, housing, and can have medical care refused to them based on their identity, and more. But governors across the country are not content with leaving the problem there. Across the country, there are 28 bills being pushed by 90 lawmakers that serve to limit the access that transgender kids have to health care, make some health care access illegal, kick trans kids out of sports. These bills are not backed by medical science and will lead to transgender children suffering needlessly.

And on Tuesday, April 6th, the Arkansas legislature overrode a veto by Governor Asa Hutchinson in order to pass legislation that explicitly prohibits doctors from helping transgender kids access gender-affirming medical care after the Governor rejected it on terms that it was an overreach of the state’s hands in the lives of individuals and their doctors. As such, Arkansas has become the first state to explicitly ban gender-affirming care in the state.

What’s in this Bill?

Not only will the bill disallow doctors from providing transgender kids gender-affirming care from surgery to puberty blockers, to hormone treatments, among other care, it would also make it illegal for doctors to refer those patients to other providers who could provide that treatment. It would force transgender kids to go through puberty changes that do not correspond with their gender identity, and it would ensure that kids already receiving treatment could no longer get it.

While Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson did sign a bill that banned trans athletes from participating in sports that correspond to their gender identity (a bill that Mississippi and Tennessee have also already passed and signed), the Arkansas legislature took a dangerous step further in passing this bill.

Are There Other Bills Like It?

Following Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama are two other states that are advancing bills that will do the same. Alabama’s state senate just passed a bill that would make providing puberty blockers or hormones to transgender people up to 19-years-old a felony and would make it illegal for Medicaid funds to be used for transition-related care for people over 19. A Tennessee bill would make providing gender-affirming care to kids prior to puberty a misdemeanor and would raise the barrier of access those kids have to care after puberty to make it inaccessible to many teens and their parents.

Though Governor Hutchinson did veto the bill, citing the onerous hand of the state in the affairs of medical decisions, the Senate overrode the veto 25-8, making the bill law.

Why Gender-Affirming Care Matters

The bill, like many of the bills being debated right now in state legislatures across the country, makes it illegal for kids to have gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or surgery. It would also kick kids off of the treatment they are already receiving. It runs counter to the advice of medical professionals, pediatric doctors, LGBTQ+ rights advocates, the transgender kids themselves, and more. Gender-affirming care has been shown to help kids enormously. When trans kids have access to gender-affirming care, they are less likely to be depressed, anxious, or contemplate, or attempt to commit suicide than if they are prohibited from such access.

How Bad Is It That The Bill Passed?

Very, very, very bad. The collateral damage of the bill will be the lives, and health, of the trans kids who live in Arkansas. For teens and kids who are already on puberty blockers or hormones, these treatments would be taken away from them unceremoniously.

Kids wouldn’t be able to access care that could save their lives. Trans kids who don’t receive access to gender-affirming care are more likely to attempt suicide and have mental health issues.

This Is About Protecting Kids’ Lives

Experts agree: These bills passing in states across the country will do little more than hurt the transgender children who are the subject of them.

According to NBC, a pediatric doctor in Arkansas testified before the Senate and said that she had seen “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week,” after the Arkansas House passed the bill.

Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said to NBC News, “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.” Strangio also added that the bill would be “forcing [trans kids] to detransition by government coercion.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said, “The AAP recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space. The bill advancing through Arkansas Legislature not only ignores this recommendation but undermines it.”

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