Arkansas became the first US state to ban sex confirmation treatment and surgery for transgender people under the age of 18.
The bill also prohibits doctors from providing puberty blockers or referring them to other providers for treatment.
The governor of the Republican state had vetoed the bill, calling it “vast government excess.”
But the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate rejected it.
The bill met with a lot of opposition from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said the law would prevent trans youth from receiving important medical care and increase their already high risk of suicide.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it was preparing litigation, saying the bill “will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to transgender youth who look with fear “.
“It’s a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, in a statement. .
A problem that goes beyond Arkansas
By Shrai Popat, BBC News, Washington DC
In recent weeks, Arkansas has played a game of legislative ping-pong, with gender-affirming care at stake. Today, the state became the first to ban doctors from providing health care. gender specific to trans youth. Medical experts said it would likely have dire consequences for trans youth, especially when it comes to mental health.
Dr Jack Turban, a researcher in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, told the BBC that access to gender-sensitive care for trans youth is “consistently linked with better outcomes in mental health “.
He added that much of the political discourse around such care has been shrouded in unscientific misinformation which implies that “transgender youth are ‘confused’ or disabled.”
The problem goes beyond the borders of Arkansas. Trans children in states like Alabama and Tennessee await decisions from their lawmakers on similar legislation. According to Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “the anticipation, uncertainty and fear” of losing gender-affirming care “destroys” the resilience of trans youth. .
Governor Asa Hutchinson called the bill “a product of America’s cultural war.” He argued that this created “new standards of legislative interference with doctors and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive issues affecting young people.”
Gov. Hutchinson’s veto waiver only required a simple majority, but passed easily through both chambers, with the House voting 72-25 in favor and the Senate 25-8.
At least 16 other states are considering similar legislation.
Supporters of the bill, who are almost all Republicans, say they want to protect children from life-changing proceedings they will later regret. They also highlight the side effects of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and cite occasional cases where transgender people reverse their decision to transition.
But experts say every step is taken with consultation with doctors, therapists and social workers, often over long periods of time.