Arkansas legislature overrides veto of bill banning trans procedures for minors

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Arkansas became Tuesday the first state to ban gender-reassignment drugs and procedures for minors after the state legislature overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto.

The state House voted 71-24 and the state Senate voted 25-8, with two excused, to overturn the veto of House Bill 1570, the Save Adolescents from Experimentation [SAFE] Act.

Both houses are controlled by Republicans. A veto override in Arkansas requires only a simple majority of both chambers.

Conservative groups cheered the legislature‘s approval of House Bill 1570, which prevents doctors from prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to those under 18.

“Arkansas’ passage of the SAFE Act today is a resounding victory for biological sanity and common sense,” said Jon Schweppe, American Principles Project director of policy and government affairs. “As most Americans recognize, we should not be pressuring young children into undergoing highly experimental, life-altering procedures to ‘change’ their sex before they are even old enough to make most other major decisions.

The law is expected to be immediately in court. Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said the ACLU was “preparing litigation as we speak” to fight the law.

“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over — and we’re in it for the long haul,” said ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson. “Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it’s also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court.”

Tweeted Mr. Strangio: “We will see you in court you cruel cruel people.”

The Republican Hutchinson said in his Monday veto message that he would have signed the bill if it covered only sex-change surgeries for minors, which he said were already prohibited in Arkansas, but that the bill as written was “overbroad” and “extreme.”

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

Mr. Schweppe countered that “restraint is not always a good thing,” drawing a comparison to bills restricting abortion.

“The governor himself admitted that it was important for the state to act to protect life in preventing ideologically motivated doctors from performing abortions,” said Mr. Schweppe. “The same principle obviously applies in this case as well, and we are grateful the legislature had the courage to act to protect the health and well-being of children.”

Two weeks ago, Mr. Hutchinson signed legislation to ban male-to-female transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports, making Arkansas the fourth state to do so after Idaho, Mississippi and Tennessee.

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