by Kylin Brown -
SGN Contributing Writer
The Arkansas legislature passed a bill that will prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors in the state. House Bill 1570 passed in the state Senate with overwhelming support (28 to 7) on March 29. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is expected to approve the bill.
Under the restrictive measures, doctors will no longer be allowed to provide hormone therapies, puberty blockers, or transition surgeries to patients under 18, even with parental consent. They will also be prohibited from referring these young patients to another provider elsewhere, and private insurers will be allowed to refuse to coverage of gender-affirming care for people of any age.
This is Arkansas' second bill in a week targeting the rights of trans youth, following last Friday's signage of the "Fairness in Women's Sports Act," which bans Transgender student athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity
Chase Strangio, deputy for Transgender justice at the ACLU, called HB 1570 the "single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a single legislature."
Access to healthcare within the young Trans community saves lives. Major medical organizations such as the American Association of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society, and the American Psychiatric Association maintain an oppositional stance to bills that ban or restrict access to gender-affirming care for Trans minors.
Dr. Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, "The AAP recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space. The bill advancing through Arkansas Legislature not only ignores this recommendation but undermines it."
Arkansas pediatricians have already seen an increase in self-harm and attempts at suicide among their young Transgender patients since the bill was passed in the state House last week.
Michele Hutchison, who practices endocrinology at Arkansas Children's Northwest, testified in front of the Senate on March 22 that there had been "multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week."
National research confirms that Transgender youth face a myriad of intersecting challenges while navigating their identities.
Data from a survey published by The Trevor Project in 2020
reflects the immense disparities in discrimination, housing stability, mental health, access to care, and suicide rates. It concluded that among 40,000 respondents, about 60% of Transgender and nonbinary youth reported engaging in acts of self-harm in the 12 months prior.
Gov. Hutchinson has yet to sign the bill, and though he is expected to, he faces opposition from dozens of major medical and LGBTQ organizations. If signed, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas plans to sue the state.