Arkansas lawmakers have voted to override their governor’s veto of HB 1570—the so-called “SAFE Act” that prohibits doctors from providing gender-confirming treatment to transgender youth.
According to the Associated Press, the GOP-controlled House and Senate voted to enact the legislation on Tuesday, just a day after Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s vetoed of the measure, citing concerns with mental health and how such a bill could interfere with parents’ and doctors’ freedom of choice.
“If House Bill 1570 becomes law, then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinson said during a Monday press conference. “This is a government overreach. You are starting to let lawmakers interfere with healthcare and set a standard for legislation overriding healthcare. The state should not presume to jump into every ethical health decision.”
The bill, which is now set to become state law, prohibits physicians from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers, and transition-related surgery to transgenders under the age of 18. The ban does not apply to services for those born with a medically verifiable sex development disorder.
Shortly after Tuesday’s vote, transgender rights activists began threatening legal action against the state. Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, responded to the override in the following tweets:
The ACLU tweeted its team was already preparing litigation.
“This decision ignores dozens of local doctors, national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents,” the organization wrote. “Gender-affirming care is life-saving care. Banning it will have devastating — and in some cases, deadly consequences. This bill will drive families, doctors and businesses out of the state, and sends a terrible and heartbreaking message to transgender people who are watching in fear. Trans youth in Arkansas: We will continue to fight for you. We will always have your back, and we’ll be relentless in our defense of your rights.”
After the vote in Arkansas, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina introduced Senate Bill 514 on Monday, hoping to prevent medical professionals from providing health care services to trangender people younger than 21, stating that one’s sex is “genetically encoded into a person at the moment of conception, and it cannot be changed.”
Additionally, 15 other states are still considering bills that would restrict transgender youths’ access to certain medical procedures, according to Freedom for All Americans. These states include Utah, Alabama, Kansas, Montana and Texas, whcih alone has five bills being considered.