A bill that would bar transgender people under the age of 18 from receiving gender transition-related care passed a House committee on Tuesday.
The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee by a vote of 13-4 advanced House Bill 1570, which bans any physician or healthcare professional from providing "any gender transition procedures to any individual under 18."
Procedures that are banned include hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery. Currently, gender reassignment surgeries are not being conducted in Arkansas. The bill also allows the state’s attorney general to bring an action for compliance with the law.
Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Springdale, the bill’s sponsor, spoke on the legislation, saying its intent is to "protect children."
"They can make these decisions when they’re over 18 and they’re adults and they can think about the decisions they want to make and they’re capable of making those decisions. But the first rule of medicine is do no harm," Lundstrum said. Lundstrum said the bill does not ban transgender youth from accessing counseling.
Democratic Rep. Deborah Ferguson of West Memphis, spoke against the legislation.
"This is driven by an outside lobbying group that it’s no longer favorable to discriminate against blacks and gays anymore, so they picked transgenders for this session," Ferguson said.
15 members of the public spoke against the legislation, while four people spoke in its favor when Lundstrum presented the bill.
Rumba Yambu, founder of the transgender community organization Intransitive, spoke against the legislation, speaking specifically on the aspect that under this bill even with parental consent, transition related care is not allowed for minors.
"I want to remind you that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized time and time again, parents’ constitutional right to care, custody and control of their children. Arkansas even has vaccine exemptions for religious and philosophical reasons. So you need to think about that in the way that this bill is worded," Yambu said.
The bill now goes to the full House for a vote.