Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Monday vetoed a state bill prohibiting medical treatment for transgender youth, calling it “a vast government overreach.”
HB1570, titled the Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, bans healthcare professionals from providing gender transition procedures to youth under 18 years old, even with parental consent. Among other treatments, it covers puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. The bill also outlaws the use of public funds for gender transition procedures and includes a provision specifically banning the Arkansas Medicaid Program from reimbursing or providing coverage for gender transition procedures for juveniles. Following the House’s approval, the Senate passed the bill late last month.
Further, the bill states that “any referral for or provision of gender transition procedures to an individual under eighteen is unprofessional conduct and is subject to discipline.” As such, physicians who offer such care risk losing their licenses or facing legal challenges under the law.
“The most recent action by the general assembly—while well-intended—is off course, and I must veto HB1570,” said Hutchinson at a press conference.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas applauded the move. “This veto belongs to the thousands of Arkansans who spoke out against this discriminatory bill, especially the young people, parents, and pediatricians who never stopped fighting this anti-trans attack,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “Medical decisions should be left up to trans youth, their parents, and their doctor – not politicians or the government.”
Rep. Robin Lunstrum and Sen. Alan Clark, co-sponsors of the SAFE Act, held a press conference following the veto announcement where they expressed disappointment with Hutchinson’s decision. They emphasized the state’s interest in “protecting the health and safety of its citizens, especially vulnerable children.”
Looking forward, the bill heads back to the state legislature, where a simple majority vote could override Hutchinson’s veto.