Arkansas just passed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans kids

30 March 2021, 16:42 | Updated: 8 April 2021, 20:24

Jazmin Duribe

By Jazmin Duribe

More than 80 bills restricting trans rights have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in the US so far this year.

Arkansas are the first state to pass a bill stopping doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender kids.

On Monday (Mar 29), the Senate voted 28-7 in favour of the legislation. The Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act prohibits trans kids from accessing hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery. Doctors also cannot refer them to other healthcare providers for treatment. In addition, private insurers can refuse to cover gender-affirming healthcare for transgender people of all ages.

The bill will now be passed to Arkansas' Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who has not confirmed if he supports it or not. However, on Friday (Mar 26), Hutchinson signed a law that would allow doctors to refuse to treat someone on religious or moral grounds, which many worry could lead them to turn away LGBTQ+ patients for treatments.

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Arkansas just passed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans kids.
Arkansas just passed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans kids. Picture: Getty Images, DEREK R. HENKLE/AFP via Getty Images

Hutchinson now has five days – not including Sunday – after the bill reaches his desk to sign it into law or veto the legislation before it becomes law without his signature. If signed, the ban would take effect in late summer.

Hutchinson vetoed the bill following pleas from celebrities, doctors and parents of transgender children. Sadly, on Tuesday (April 6), the Arkansas Legislature overrode the governor's veto.

Actress Laverne Cox hit out at the bill in a video recorded for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She said: "It's exhausting. I encourage us to look at this in the context of years-long attempts to stigmatise and further marginalise trans people and have that stigma codified into law.

"This is not new. We've seen bathroom bills, we’ve seen other bills in previous years, and now we see bills like HB 1570, which would criminalise doctors providing healthcare – medically necessary health care – to children."

Supporters of the trans community have also spoken out against the bill and noted the detrimental effect it will have on Arkansas' transgender youth.

In 2021 alone, more than 80 bills restricting trans rights have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in the US – the highest number of anti-trans legislative proposals ever filed in a single year. Most include banning transgender kids from certain sports teams and stopping their access to gender-affirming healthcare.

Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have passed bills that restricts trans girls and women from competing in school sports teams that do not match the sex that athletes were assigned at birth. And on Monday, South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem issued two executive orders limiting participation on women's and girls' school sports teams to people assigned female at birth. However, there is no research suggesting that trans girls have a competitive advantage.