Arkansas’ anti-trans bill becomes law, banning treatment for trans youth, after the state legislature overrode Gov. Hutchinson’s veto

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. AP Photo/Danny Johnston
  • The Arkansas House and Senate have overridden Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the anti-trans SAFE act.
  • The bill is now law, making it the first anti-transgender law in the United States.
  • It’s now a felony to prescribe trans youth puberty blockers, hormone-replacement therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arkansas on Tuesday passed the first anti-trans law in the United States, despite the governor’s veto on Monday.

The Arkansas House and Senate voted Tuesday to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said the state’s anti-trans bill, which bars minors from receiving life-saving medical care, was “extreme.”

The House voted 72-25 on Tuesday to advance the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE)” Act, HB 1570, over the governor’s objections. Minutes later, the Senate voted 25-8 in favor of the bill, making it law.

The legislation bars doctors from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone-replacement therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries to trans people under age 18.

On Monday Hutchinson vetoed the bill, saying it was “overboard, extreme, and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment.”

“The most recent action of the general assembly is off-course,” Hutchinson said Monday.

He said he’d spoken with trans people, national leaders, and medical professionals before deciding that the bill was misguided.

In vetoing the bill Hutchinson said he expected to be overruled, but added: “I looked at this and thought, ‘Where do I want my voice to be?'”

Activists are appealing the law before it takes effect

The American Civil Liberties Union said it plans to appeal the law before it is due to come into effect in July.

“This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul,” Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas’ executive director, said in a Tuesday press release.

In a series of tweets, the ACLU added: “This decision ignores dozens of local doctors, national medical experts, as well as trans youth and their parents.

“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.”

The risks of banning treatment for trans youth

Advocates have long warned the law would be devastating for trans youth, setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country.

Studies have shown the younger trans children have access to care, the less likely they are to develop depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideations later in life.

As Insider’s Canela López reported, doctors typically wait until patients are 18 years old before proceeding with surgery. Often trans youth will pursue hormone blockers to suspend puberty, before advancing to hormone-replacement therapy.