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Arkansas Senate approves limits on gender-affirming care for minors

The empty Arkansas Senate chamber on July 29. On Tuesday, lawmakers began a special session to consider how to spend the state's $1.6 billion surplus from the last fiscal year.
Michael Hibblen
Lawmakers voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would allow transgender patients to sue their doctors.

A bill passed by the Arkansas Senate on Tuesday would open physicians up to litigation if they offer gender-affirming care to children.

Senate Bill 199 would give people who received gender-affirming care as a child, including hormones and puberty blockers, a 15-year window to sue their physician.

Its sponsor, Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, said the law would protect young children from the effects of irreversible surgeries and hormone treatments. However, no gender-affirmation surgeries are performed on minors in the state of Arkansas, and young children are not eligible for gender-affirming medical treatments.

Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, spoke in favor of the bill. He explained how he felt it protected children from rushing into medical treatments.

“We're here about protecting kids,” he said. “Because this ain’t treating a cold.”

Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, called the bill "big government overreach" and said it was borne out of misconceptions.

“99% of the people in this state will never have any idea this bill passes,” he said. “But for the lives it does affect, it's soul-crushing.”

Tucker broke down a number of different ways he found the bill to be unconstitutional, saying that a similar Arkansas law called the SAFE Act was eventually blocked by a federal judge.

“This bill really targets a marginalized and misunderstood community in Arkansas,” he said. “And it's called gender-affirming care for a reason because we are affirming who these people are. And when we pass bills like this the message is not that they’re affirmed, it's that they're rejected by their own state.”

The bill passed on a vote of 29 to 6 and now moves to a House committee.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.