Arkansas Gov. Vetos Transgender Treatments Ban For Minors, Calls It ‘Vast Government Overreach’

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) announced that he had vetoed a bill on Monday that would have blocked minors from receiving gender-reassignment surgeries and hormone treatments, calling the proposal “vast government overreach.”

The legislation, which passed 28-7 last week, would have prevented doctors from prescribing hormones and puberty blockers to, or from performing reassignment surgery on, minors as a treatment for gender dysphoria, a condition characterized by significant “psychological distress that results from incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity,” as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. 

“I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible, but the most recent action of the general assembly, while well-intended, is off-course and I must veto,” said Hutchinson in a press conference announcing the veto on Monday afternoon. 

Under the proposal, doctors also would have been prohibited from giving minors referrals for gender reassignment surgeries and reassignment hormone treatments. Arkansas already doesn’t allow gender transition surgeries for any minors, according to the governor. 

The bill, argued Hutchinson, would’ve 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 such minors should have “the guiding hand of their parents and of the health-care professionals that their family has chosen.”

“House bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and healthcare experts,” he said. “While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson added: “House bill 1570 is opposed by the leading Arkansas associations, and 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.”

He also noted that the proposal does not contain a grandfather clause, which he said would mean anyone currently receiving gender-reassignment treatments would have to stop. 

“In other words, the young people who are currently under a doctor’s care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect. That means they will be looking to the black market, or go out of state, if they can afford it, to find the treatment that they want and need,” said the governor, who noted he would have supported a law just focused on surgical interventions. 

Hutchinson previously signed a law prohibiting biological males from competing in women’s sports at the high school and collegiate level, a policy that he reiterated his support for on Monday. “I’m a fan of women’s sports, and I think it undermined women’s sports to have biological males to compete in girls sports in high school or college,” said the governor. 

Related: Arkansas Bans Transgender Athletes From Women’s Sports

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