Arkansas Bill Bans Trans Kids From Accessing Health Care

·4 min read

In 29 states, transgender kids have no legal rights. Trans kids have no right to employment, housing, and can have medical care refused to them based on their identity, and more. But governors across the country are not content with leaving the problem there. Across the country, there are 28 bills being pushed by 90 lawmakers that serve to limit the access that transgender kids have to health care, make some health care access illegal, kick trans kids out of sports, and full participation in society. These bills are not backed by medical science and will lead to transgender children suffering needlessly.

As of Monday, March 29, Arkansas became the first state that passed a bill that would explicitly prohibit doctors from helping transgender kids access gender-affirming medical care.

What’s in this Bill?

Not only will the bill disallow doctors from providing transgender kids surgery, puberty blockers, or hormone treatments, it would also make it illegal for doctors to refer those patients to other providers who could provide that treatment. It would force transgender kids to go through puberty changes that do not correspond with their gender identity, and it would ensure that kids already receiving treatment could no longer get it.

The bill follows another law signed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson that bans trans athletes from participating in sports that correspond to their gender identity — a bill that Mississippi and Tennessee have also already passed and signed.

Alongside Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama are two other states that are advancing bills that will do the same. Alabama’s state senate just passed a bill that would make providing puberty blockers or hormones to transgender people up to 19-years-old a felony and would make it illegal for Medicaid funds to be used for transition-related care for people over 19. A Tennessee bill would make the practice a misdemeanor.

The bill has been sent to Governor Hutchinson’s desk, where he has to sign it within five days of its passing, in order for it to become law.

Why Gender-Affirming Care Matters

The bill, like many of the bills being debated right now in state legislatures across the country, would make it illegal for kids to have gender-affirming health care like puberty blockers, hormone treatment, or surgery. It would also kick kids off of the treatment they are already receiving. It runs counter to the advice of medical professionals, pediatric doctors, LGBTQ+ rights advocates, the transgender kids themselves, and more. Gender-affirming care has been shown to help kids enormously. When trans kids have access to gender-affirming care, they are less likely to be depressed, anxious, or contemplate suicide than if they are prohibited from such access.

How Bad Will It Be If It Passes?

Very, very, very bad. The collateral damage of the bill will be the lives, and health, of the trans kids who live in Arkansas. For teens and kids who are already on puberty blockers or hormones, these treatments would be taken away from them unceremoniously.

Kids wouldn’t be able to access care that could save their lives. Trans kids who don’t receive access to gender-affirming care are more likely to attempt suicide and have mental health issues.

This Is About Protecting Kids’ Lives

Experts agree: These bills passing in states across the country will do little more than hurt the transgender children who are the subject of them.

According to NBC, a pediatric doctor in Arkansas testified before the Senate and said that she had seen “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week,” after the Arkansas House passed the bill.

Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said to NBC News, “I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed.” Strangio also added that the bill would be “forcing [trans kids] to detransition by government coercion.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said, “The AAP recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space. The bill advancing through Arkansas Legislature not only ignores this recommendation but undermines it.”

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