Trans advocates praised the Governor of Arkansas this week, after he vetoed a bill that would ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, and bluntly called on the GOP-led legislature to “think through the issue again.”
Despite Governor Asa Hutchinson's move, the bill will become Arkansas state law after conservative lawmakers voted Tuesday to override the Governor's veto.
House Bill 1570, “To Create The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,” (SAFE Act) passed through the state senate last week.
Governor Asa Hutchinson said Monday he chose to veto the bill because it would have been “a vast government overreach,” which would have created “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents, as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”
Hutchinson said he hoped his veto would make the state’s far-right leaning lawmakers rethink their attempt to ban access to medical care for trans youth altogether.
“I’m hopeful that my action will cause conservative Republican legislators to think through the issue again,” he said, “and hopefully come up with a more restrained approach that allows a study of the science and ethics surrounding this issue before acting.”
Unfortunately, members of the Republican-led House and Senate wasted no time in overriding Gov. Hutchinson's veto the next day, forcing the measure to become state law.
Hutchinson told reporters that leading medical associations had strongly opposed the bill, and he acknowledged that denying gender-related healthcare to trans youth can “lead to significant harm to the young person from suicidal tendencies, social isolation, to increased drug use.”
He also noted that gender-confirmation surgery is not yet available to anyone under the age of 18 in Arkansas. However, when it comes to the rest of their healthcare, he said “they deserve the guiding hand of their parents, and of the health care professionals that their family has chosen."
Despite the bill moving into law, some advocates see Hutchinson's veto as a signal that there is a conservative case for caution when restricting access to healthcare.
"Today Arkansas legislators disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth," Holly Dickson, executive director of Arkansas ACLU said. "As Governor Hutchinson noted in his veto message, denying care to trans youth can lead to harmful and life-threatening consequences. This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul."