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Arkansas lawmakers enact treatment ban for transgender youth

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) – Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban sex confirmation treatments and surgery for transgender youth, passing the ban over the governor’s objections.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to overturn GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto on the measure, which bars doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy, puberty blockers, or surgery to anyone under 18, or refer them to other providers for treatment.

Opponents of the measure have pledged to take action to block the ban before it goes into effect this summer.

Hutchinson vetoed the bill following calls from pediatricians, social workers and parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk of depression and suicide.

The ban has been challenged by several medical and child welfare groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The promoter of the measure described the procedures as experimentation and compared the restriction to other limits that the state imposes on minors.

“They have to be 18 before making these decisions,” Republican Robin Lundstrum said.

Hutchinson said the measure went too far in interfering with parents and doctors, and noted that it will interrupt care for transgender youth already treated. He said he would have signed the bill if he had focused solely on sex confirmation surgery, which is not currently performed on minors in the state.

The law will come into force at the end of July at the earliest. The United States Civil Liberties Union has said it plans to challenge the measure before that date.

“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 Arkansas ACLU, in a statement. .

The waiver, which required only a simple majority, passed easily through both chambers, with the House voting 72-25 in favor and the Senate 25-8.

The ban was enacted in a year in which bills targeting transgender people have advanced easily in Arkansas and other states. Hutchinson recently signed a law banning transgender women and girls from competing in teams compatible with their gender identity, a ban that was also enacted in Tennessee and Mississippi this year.

Hutchinson also recently signed a law that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone based on moral or religious objections.

The foundation established Tuesday by the family of the Bentonville-based founder of Walmart raised concerns about recent measures targeting LGBTQ people.

“This trend is bad and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest or visit our state,” Tom Walton of the Walton Family Foundation said in a statement released ahead of the priority vote.

One lawmaker opposed to the measure compared it to the anti-integration bills the Arkansas legislature passed in 1958 in opposition to the previous year’s desegregation of Little Rock Central High School.

“What I see, this bill, is the most powerful one that again harasses the most vulnerable people in our state,” Democratic Senator Clarke Tucker said before the vote.

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