The Arkansas legislature on Monday became the latest state to pass harmful anti-transgender legislation this year, overwhelmingly supporting a new bill that would prohibit doctors from providing medically necessary treatment to trans kids.
The bill would prohibit doctors from providing minors with treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies or any transition procedures. Doctors who flout the law could lose their licenses and patients that have been receiving medical care would have it cut off immediately.
The bill is titled the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE, Act, and relies on a host of misinformation and negative tropes about transgender people. The Washington Post notes that most doctors don’t even perform gender-affirming surgeries until patients turn 18, in line with nationwide medical guidelines. Bu the legislation feeds into dog whistles circulated by right-wing media.
It’s unclear if Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) plans to sign the bill, but the Arkansas Times notes he is reviewing it. Last week Hutchinson signed a separate law banning transgender girls from competing in school sports teams in line with their gender identity.
The latest passage drew immediate criticism from human rights groups, which called the bill “dangerous” and said it would put lives at risk. The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to take the issue to court should Hutchinson sign the bill.
Republicans have increasingly targeted transgender Americans this year, and GOP lawmakers have introduced bills in at least 17 states. The legislation ranges from efforts to keep transgender girls from playing school sports to broader efforts to ban or restrict access to medical care. Three bills targeting kids’ access to sports teams have already been signed into law this year, including the one in Arkansas.
Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, said human rights advocates must now “fight for trans lives with everything we have.”
“This bill will strip health care from trans youth. It will hurt kids,” Strangio tweeted. “It is devastating.”
Studies have shown access to medical care is essential to trans youth, and the American Academy of Pediatrics this month said the bevy of state bills would only harm children.
“As experts, pediatricians are uniquely positioned to advocate for and support these young people. Politics has no place here,” Mark Del Monte, the CEO of the AAP said this month. “These are individual conversations between clinicians, patients and families about what’s best.”
Later on Monday, Dr. Lee Beers, the president of the AAP, said the bill’s passage was a “dangerous” effort to “politicize medical care.”
“This is discrimination by legislation and transgender children and all children deserve better,” Beers said, adding: “It puts politicians rather than pediatricians in charge of a child’s medical care.”