Arkansas passes bill banning doctors from providing some treatments to transgender youth
State is one of 16 looking at laws that would deny health care or civil rights to trans people
Arkansas lawmakers passed a measure on Monday that could make the state the first in the country to prevent doctors from providing certain types of care to transgender youth, part of a wave of U.S legislation that would restrict transgender rights.
The Arkansas legislation threatens any healthcare professional who provides puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender-affirming surgery to minors with losing their medical license and opens them up to lawsuits from patients who later regret their procedures.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has declined to say whether he would sign the bill into law. 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.
Sixteen other states are considering similar bills. Civil rights organizations have said they are likely to sue to stop any such bills that are enacted.
On Friday, Hutchinson signed another bill opposed by transgender advocates, which would ban transgender women and girls from playing female sports.
South Dakota governor kills sports ban bill, issues restrictions
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday killed a bill that would have banned transgender women and girls from female sports. Noem later issued weaker executive orders that include restrictions but which conservatives decried as political face-saving.
Even though the high school activities association has said there are currently no transgender students playing in girls' sports in the state, Noem ordered that all girls who want to play in girls' sports leagues in public schools have to present a birth certificate or affidavit showing they were born female.
A second order applied to public universities in the state, but amounted to a recommendation they enact bans. The governor also promised to call lawmakers back into session in the coming months to take up the matter.
"Only girls should play girls' sports," Noem said in a statement, adding that she was issuing the orders because the legislature had rejected her partial veto of the bill.
Republicans across the country have introduced a record 127 bills on transgender issues in 22 states this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ organization in the United States.
Like Arkansas, Mississippi also enacted a law this month that ban athletes who were designated male at birth from playing women's or girls sports at public schools or universities. Idaho passed one last year that was blocked by a federal court.
Proponents of the medical legislation say they want to protect children from irreversible procedures they could later regret.
"They're not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions," said Tennessee state Rep. John Ragan, the lead sponsor of a bill that would ban most transgender treatment for minors unless it has the consent of three physicians.
Transgender advocates see the proposals as a political ploy to whip up right-wing outrage. They contend the measures are unconstitutional, defy the best medical science and rely on outdated stereotypes.
"As a trans person, as a parent, I can't stress enough how devastating the consequences would be," Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, told a news conference on Monday.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents 67,000 pediatricians, was among several medical organizations to oppose the Arkansas bill, saying it would cut off trans kids from needed medical care and needlessly increase their already high risk of suicide.
With files from The Associated Press