Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas’ Republican governor, has vetoed a bill that would have criminalized affirming health care for trans youth, calling it an example of “vast government overreach.”
The state's majority Republican Senate had voted in favor of HB 1570 last week, 28 votes to 7—making it the first bill to pass in the U.S. outlawing health care access and treatment for trans teenagers. The Arkansas General Assembly can vote to overturn Hutchinson’s veto.
If passed, the bill would prevent young trans people from accessing health care and insurance coverage for gender-affirming care and would have outlawed gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to trans minors. It would also have made it a felony for healthcare professionals to perform certain gender transition procedures on people under 18. LGBTQ organizations and civil rights campaigners, as well as leading healthcare bodies, opposed the bill.
At a press conference Monday, Hutchinson explained his veto. “I was told this week the nation is looking to Arkansas because I have on my desk another bill passed by the general assembly that is a product of the cultural war in America. I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible. But the most recent action of the general assembly, while well intended, is off course. And I must veto House Bill 1570.”
Hutchinson continued: “House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care overriding parents, patients, and healthcare experts. While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human, and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”
Hutchinson’s veto is somewhat surprising given that he signed Senate Bill 354 into law on March 25, preventing trans girls and women from playing school sports consistent with their gender identity.
Hutchinson also recently signed a law allowing doctors to refuse to treat someone because of religious or moral objections. Opponents of the law believe it will be used to turn away LGBTQ patients.
There are presently over 170 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures, many focused on trans teens’ access to playing sports and receiving necessary medical care. Tennessee and Mississippi have already passed laws against trans girls’ participation in youth sports, while Gov. Kristi Noem has signed executive orders to do the same in South Dakota, after the state legislature did not ultimately pass a bill to do the same.