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Arkansas becomes first state to ban gender-affirming treatment for trans youth

The state’s Republican-controlled House voted 71-24 to override Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of HB 1570 on Tuesday afternoon, with the Republican-controlled Senate overturning its veto with a little 25-8 vote soon after.
The new law represents a significant step backwards for trans Americans fighting for equality in Arkansas, and it comes as Republicans in a number of states push further policies to prevent trans people participate in common activities, such as athletics in high school and college. Tuesday’s action was quickly denounced by LGBTQ lawyers, who have vowed to challenge the law.

The Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act was passed by the Senate at the end of last month by a vote of 28 to 7. The State House passed it in early March by a vote of 70 to 22.

With the new law, young people will not be able to access puberty blockers, a treatment option for transgender youth used to prevent the onset of puberty.

The law prohibits so-called cross-hormone therapy, a gender-affirming treatment that allows transgender people to change their physical appearance to be more consistent with their gender identity. In this treatment, they are given hormones that can help redistribute body fat to different parts of the body and speed up or slow down hair growth. The hormone estrogen can make breast tissue and stop sperm production, and testosterone tends to stop menstruation and increase sex drive.

The bill makes what it calls an “exception” for certain intersex people whose chromosome makeup and hormone production are unspecified, and those who have difficulties resulting from previous gender-affirming treatments.

Hutchinson vetoed the legislation on Monday, calling it a “product of America’s culture war” and arguing that it creates “new standards of legislative interference with doctors and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive issues involving young people. ”The governor told reporters following his veto that he expected lawmakers to overturn it.

CNN has reached out to the bill’s sponsors for comment.

Arkansas State Representative Robin Lundstrum, a Republican who proposed the Arkansas SAFE ACT, made comments that contradict the science of gender identity and falsely positioned trans and non-binary identities as a choice”.

“These kids are precious. Some of them may choose to be transgender when they’re older. It’s OK, it’s their choice,” Lundstrum said during a House panel before passing the bill, to explain why she supports their denial of sex. – a firming treatment. “But when they’re under 18, they have to grow up first. It’s a big decision, there’s no turning back.”

Some medical groups, including the American Psychiatric Association, have spoken out against laws like HB 1570, with the group saying last week that “patients and their doctors, not policymakers, should be the ones who need to take the best together. care for them. “
LGBTQ and medical activists have strongly opposed the legislation, which they believe could have significant negative effects on trans youth, who are at a much higher risk of suicide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United. More than a dozen states have considered bills similar to Arkansas’ SAFE Act this year alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union’s anti-trans bill tracker.

Following the cancellation of the veto, the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, warned in a statement that trans youth in the state “would be exposed to dramatically increased risk of self-harm due to legislation like HB 1570 pushing them further from the margins of society. “

The ACLU, meanwhile, said the law “will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state and send a terrible and heartbreaking message to transgender youth who watch with fear.”

“The ACLU is preparing litigation as we speak,” Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender justice for the ACLU’s LGBTQ and HIV project, said in a statement. The Human Rights Campaign, one of the country’s largest LGBTQ rights groups, also said in a statement that it “will use all tools at our disposal to fight this law.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kay Jones and Lauren Holt contributed to this story.


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