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Arkansas Passes “Dangerous” Bill Banning Gender-Affirming Health Care For Trans Youth

These bills not only ignore the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “they undermine them.”

Arkansas House Bill 1570 has passed and is headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. If signed into law, Arkansas will ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. The bill has been titled “Save Adolescents From Experimentation” or “SAVE,” yet is unequivocally rejected by both civil rights advocates and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

HB1570 would ban gender affirming care — including ongoing and reversible care such as puberty blockers and hormones from minors under the age of 19 — and make doing so a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Additionally, it requires educators and school personnel to out students who have confided their gender identity to their teachers if that identity is inconsistent with their gender assigned at birth.

According to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 2021 has become a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation. In fact, in Arkansas, the passing of HB1570 comes on the heels of Gov. Hutchinson signing the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, which allows medical providers and institutions to refuse care to LGBTQ+ individuals on religious, moral, or ethical grounds, which will take effect this summer. The previous day, he signed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which prohibits trans women and girls from participating in women’s sports.

In a statement, Dr. Savio Beers, President of the AAP, denounced bills that would deny children gender-affirming care or prevent trans children from participating in sports according to their gender identity, saying it runs contrary to the official recommendations of the AAP, calling such bills “dangerous.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space,” Beers said. “We also recommend that playing on sports teams helps youth develop self-esteem, correlates positively with overall mental health, and appears to have a protective effect against suicide. These bills not only ignore these recommendations, they undermine them.”

“Instead, the legislation would allow policymakers rather than pediatricians to determine the best course of care for our patients, and in some medically underserved states, it could mean losing an already limited number of pediatric practitioners who care for transgender youth,” Beers continued.

Similar messages have been issued from the American Medical Association, the Endocrine Society, the American Psychological Association, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, and the American Psychiatric Association, among others, all of which reject legislation that would deny gender affirming medical care.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has described the bill as “one of the most extreme and harmful anti-trans bills in the country.” Speaking with Jo Yocurba for NBC News, Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, categorized HB1570 “sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal.” In debating the bill earlier this month, Senate sponsor Shay Shelnutt, acknowledged the he’d never spoken to a trans youth.