Apr 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Arkansas Gov. vetoes bill banning gender-affirming care for trans kids, calling it "extreme"

Asa Hutchinson speaks while wearing a suit
Gov. Hutchinson. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday vetoed a bill that criminalizes gender-affirming care for transgender kids, saying the bill is "a product of the cultural war in America" and a "vast" government overreach and "extreme."

Why it matters: LGBTQ advocates consider the veto a win, although Hutchinson called on lawmakers to "think through the issue again" and take another approach.

The big picture: Over 20 bills have been introduced this year to criminalize gender-affirming care for trans kids. Many would make puberty blockers and surgery a misdemeanor offense for doctors, while some states, like Alabama, would make it a felony offense.

What they're saying: Hutchinson said if the bill becomes law, "then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people."

  • "It is undisputed that the population of minors who struggle with gender incongruity or gender dysphoria is an extreme minority. But while they are a minority, they deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the health care professionals that their family has chosen."
  • "House Bill 1570 is opposed by the leading Arkansas medical associations and the concerned 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," he said.

"I think people underrated how extreme this bill is," Gillian Branstetter, a spokesperson for the National Women's Law Center, said, adding that the veto is a win for LGBTQ and trans advocates.

  • "If you cannot get health care in the state where you live, you cannot live in that state. This would amount to effectively banning trans kids from the state of Arkansas," she said.
  • On the possibility of the bill moving forward or being reintroduced, Branstetter said, "I would desperately urge lawmakers in Arkansas, including Gov. Hutchinson, to learn from this experience, learn from the outpouring of concern for these kids."

What's next: Hutchinson said it's likely the state's General Assembly will override his veto, noting its overwhelming support from lawmakers.

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