Arkansas lawmakers have approved a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children, sending the governor a bill that has been widely criticized by medical and child welfare groups.
The Senate voted 28-7 on Monday in favor of the legislation. If the bill is enacted it would be the first prohibition of its kind in the country, opponents say. The bill would prohibit doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment or surgery to minors, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment. It also allows private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for trans people of any age.
The legislation restricts treatments that have been endorsed by major medical associations and human rights groups. They say the care is well established and part of a gradual process that has been shown to dramatically improve the mental health of the most vulnerable kids.
The state’s governor Asa Hutchinson a Republican, has not said whether he supports the measure, but has previously supported anti-trans bills. He has five days, not counting Sunday, after the bill reaches his desk to sign or veto the legislation before it becomes law without his signature.
The measure is among dozens of bills targeting trans people that have advanced in Arkansas and other states this year. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have enacted measures prohibiting trans girls and women from competing in school sports teams consistent with their gender identity. On Monday, South Dakota’s governor also issued an executive order to prohibit trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.
Conservative legislators have introduced more than 80 bills restricting trans rights in the US so far this year – most that would either block trans kids’ use of gender-affirming care or limit their access to certain sports teams. It is the highest number of anti-trans legislative proposals ever filed in a single year.
Hutchinson on Friday signed a law that would allow doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections, a move that opponents say could be used to turn away LGBTQ+ patients.
Opponents of the measure include the American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Civil Liberties Union said it plans legal action to block the treatments ban if it’s signed into law.
If signed, the ban would take effect later this summer.