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Arkansas' GOP Gov. Vetoes Anti-Trans Healthcare Bill, Calls It A 'Vast Government Overreach'

Arkansas' GOP Gov. Vetoes Anti-Trans Healthcare Bill, Calls It A 'Vast Government Overreach'
Kris Connor/Getty Images

A Republican governor in Arkansas vetoed a bill that banned gender-affirming medical care—therapy, puberty blockers and hormone therapy—for trans people under the age of 18, regardless of parental consent.

All trans youth healthcare approved by medical standards in the United States is nonsurgical and reversible.

On Monday, Governor Asa Hutchinson called HB 1570—also called the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act—"a product of the cultural war in America,' and a "vast government overreach."

The governor's veto might recognize facts, but is a major departure from the Republican party line.

Hutchinson told reporters the bill would set "new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people."

Parents of trans children and those who don't align with Republican views expressed their gratitude to the governor.

The bill was approved in the House and Senate last month. Arkansas would have been the first state to ban gender-affirming health care for trans minors.

Under the anti-trans bill, health care providers offering such services would be felons and could lose their license to practice.

Hutchinson may have killed the SAFE Act in his state, but he predicted the Republican-led legislature "will likely override" his veto since it only takes a simple majority to do so.

However, the GOP governor remained cautiously optimistic.

He told CNN:

"I am hopeful, though, that my action will cause conservative Republican legislators to think through the issue again and hopefully come up with a more restrained approach that allows a thoughtful study of the science and ethics surrounding the issue before acting."

LGBTQ and medical advocates have aggressively lobbied against HB 1570, arguing the bill could severely impact the well-being of trans youth since they are at higher risk of suicide.

A 2020 study published in the CDC showed access to puberty blockers—or pubertal suppression therapy—reduces the numbers of suicide and mental problems in the immediate term and down the road.

The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, praised Hutchinson for vetoing HB 1570, calling it "a huge victory for the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas."

Sam Brinton, the group's vice president of advocacy and government affairs, said:

"We hope this action sends a message to other lawmakers across the country considering similar bans on gender-affirming medical care, which would only work to endanger young trans lives."

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 has been a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David commented on the surge of discriminatory and anti-transgender legislation.

He said in a statement:

"These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they're not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to score political points by sowing fear and hate."