The legislation—which, by the way, was titled the “Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act” would have barred physicians from providing gender-affirming medical care to people under 18. This care could involve, for example, puberty blockers or hormone treatments. This legislation would have also barred physicians from even referring a patient to another provider for said care. Under the bill, if physicians provided gender-affirming care anyway, they could risk losing their medical license.
As we know, for example, Alabama has similar legislation in the works. In Alabama, the bill would make it a felony for physicians to provide such gender-affirming care to people under 18. Of course, gender-affirming care is health care. It is not “experimentation.”
House Bill 1570 would also prevent the state’s Medicaid program from covering gender-affirming care for trans youth.
At the Monday press conference, Hutchinson said, “If House Bill 1570 becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislating interference for physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” as reported by Axios. He also described the law as “extreme” and a form of “government overreach.”
“The concern expressed is that denying best medical care to transgender youth can lead to significant harm to the young person from suicidal tendencies and social isolation to increased drug use,” Hutchinson stated as reported by local outlet KNWA. This is true. As Daily Kos has covered, transgender youth are more likely to report bullying, harassment, and assault than their cisgender peers. They are also more likely to leave high school without a diploma and experience homelessness. What can help? As studies show, acceptance can make a big difference.
Here’s a clip from his press conference today.
Does not signing this legislation into law make Hutchinson a hero or an ally? No. Especially not because he clarified that if the bill merely included a ban on gender-affirming surgery, he would sign it. Mind you, while conservative hysteria suggests that gender-affirming health care begins and ends with surgery, it really doesn’t, and especially not for minors. It’s hateful hysteria, and it sets a dangerous trajectory for all matters related to trans health and equality.
He also expressed concern about transgender young people who are currently receiving hormone treatment having to turn to the “black market” if the bill became law as written, as the legislation does not grandfather in people currently receiving care. Hutchinson said he wants transgender people in Arkansas to know that they are loved, but not loved enough, apparently, to stop him from signing two anti-queer bills into law in the past few weeks alone.
You can stream Hutchinson’s press conference below, courtesy of YouTube.