A bill that bans transgender youth in Arkansas from receiving any medical care that aids in their transition is on its way to the full Senate after passing a committee on Monday.
The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee advanced House Bill 1570 which would ban transgender kids under the age of 18, even with parental consent, from receiving any form of transition-related medical care. That would include gender reassignment surgery and the use of hormones and puberty blockers.
According to previous testimony on the bill, gender reassignment surgeries are currently not being conducted in Arkansas. The bill allows the state’s attorney general to bring an action for failure to comply with the law.
It also bars medical providers from referring transgender youth to any other healthcare professional for gender transition procedures.
In presenting the bill to the committee, Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, said the bill does not bar the access to counseling for transgender youth and the legislation’s intent is to protect children in the state.
"In medicine, the motto is first do no harm. My hope is that children will get to be 18. Many of you, I would hazard to guess, did things under 18 that you probably should have done and made decisions that probably shouldn’t have been made. My hope is that people get to be 18 and can make adult decisions," Lundstrum said.
15 people spoke against the legislation on Monday. One of them was Dr. Michele Hutchinson, who practices in Little Rock. She said the proposed legislation has already led to suicide attempts from transgender children as well as suicide threats.
"Do you know how many phone calls I’ve had to field in the last week of children calling me saying, 'Dr. Hutchinson, if this happens I’m going to kill myself.' Multiple. So I guarantee you if this bill passes, children will die and I will call you guys every single time one does," Hutchinson said.
Willow Breshears, founder of the Young Transwomen’s Project, also spoke against the bill.
"I think bottom line that healthcare is a human right, so it is beyond me that any legislator would legalize discriminating healthcare, especially for children," Breshears said.
The bill passed on a voice vote with no dissenting votes heard. It now advances to the full Senate where, if passed, it would go to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.