Arkansas becomes first state to pass a bill banning gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth

Mid-South

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NewsNation Now) — Arkansas just became the first state to pass a bill banning gender affirming medical treatment for trans youth.

The so-called Safe Act would prohibit doctors from giving transgender minors treatments including puberty blockers as well as hormone and transition-related therapies. It would also forbid doctors from making referrals for treatments.

The safe act stands for “save adolescents from experimentation” and bans trans youth from receiving any type of gender reassignment treatment. It passed in the state senate by a vote of 28 to 7, and in the house 70 to 22.

It’s now on Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

Parents, pediatricians, and the public are divided over the Safe Act.

“I sought the advice and expertise of medical professionals, the idea of consulting lawmakers never occurred to me, said Joanna Brandt, the mother of a transgender teenager.

Pediatricians are falling on both sides of the issue. One against the legislation says it will stop doctors from providing the best care for kids in the state.

“Part of my job as a general pediatrician is to coordinate that care. I never imagined that it could one day be illegal for me to refer one of my patients to appropriate care,” explained Arkansas Pediatrician Dr. Natalie Burr.

Other opponents of the bill include the American Academy of Pediatrics. The group’s president calling the measure “discrimination by legislation” saying it would politicize medical care.

Not all doctors agree though. One Arkansas doctor says a majority of youth wanting to transition are female and believes they are seeking the affirmation of current culture. He says there have not been enough long-term studies on kids who take drugs to transition.

“I want it to be evidence-based. I don’t’ want it to be politically driven or culturally driven,” said Dr. Grady Crosland

Republican senator Alan Clark, who sponsored the Safe Act, said “The bill sets out to protect children where they very much need protection.”

Doctor Burr says Arkansas hospitals are already seeing it impact.

“I’ve heard from local colleagues that just since this bill passed in the house of representatives there’s been an increase in er visits for suicidal ideation and attempts in our transgender patients,” said Burr.

She thinks suicide rates would dip dramatically among trans teens if they were able to seek treatment.

Arkansas is not the only state considering gender and sexual identity measures.

One bill in the Alabama House would make it a class C felony, to prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to people under 19, or to perform gender reassignment surgeries on them.

Opponents argue these types of decisions should be made by families, not politicians.

From Alabama to Arkansas, protestors say they won’t back down and will continue to rally for the rights of LGBTQIA people.

“So with all this legislation, it’s really to erase trans people and keep us from being happy. Keep us from thriving. We just want people to know that we are still here and we will continue showing up for our community,” said Founder of the Young Transwomen’s Project Willow Breshears.

NewsNation reached out to Governor Hutchinson’s office to find out if or when he plans to sign the Safe Act. We were told, “he will review it more closely, listen to the debate, and study it before making a decision.”

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