Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson, FNC’s Carlson Clash over Youth Gender Reassignment Bill Veto

Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson debated Hutchinson’s decision to veto a bill passed by the Arkansas legislature that would prohibit doctors from prescribing puberty-blocking drugs, which Carlson called chemical castration.

Even though the veto was ultimately overridden, Hutchinson insisted his approach was true to the small-government tenets of the Republican Party.

CARLSON: Well, the legislature in Arkansas recently passed a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing so-called puberty blockers, heavy-duty hormones to children who believe they are transgender. The law also bans surgeons from physical castration of children.

But the Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson vetoed that bill on Monday. Legislatures in Arkansas just voted to override that veto, which brings us to where we are right now. Asa Hutchinson is the Governor of Arkansas, and he joins us to talk about this story.

Governor, thanks so much for coming on. I really appreciate it in the middle of all this. Now, I think of you as a conservative. Here, you’ve come out publicly as pro-choice on the question of chemical castration of children. What changed?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): First of all, your teaser as you led into this program did not accurately represent the bill.

If this had been a bill that simply prohibited chemical castration, I would have signed the bill. But Tucker, as you know, this bill was overbroad. It was extreme. It went far beyond what you just said.

And I made it clear that if this was about prohibiting procedures, sex reassignment surgery, absolutely I would have signed that bill. But this again, is the first law in the nation that invokes the state between medical decisions, parents who consent to that, and the decision of the patient and so this goes way too far, and in fact, it does even have a grandfather clause that those young people that are under hormonal treatments, they have to be cut off from it.

CARLSON: If I could just correct you for a second. This is chemical castration, of course, if you stop puberty and suppress the sex hormones, you’re chemically castrating someone. So our description was correct.

But let me just ask you, I mean, there are all kinds of — we’re talking about minors — children here and there are all kinds of things in Arkansas, kids in every state are not allowed to do: get married, drink a beer, get a tattoo.

Why do you think it’s important for conservatives to make certain that children can block their puberty? Be chemically castrated? Why is that a conservative value, if you would tell us?

HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, you have parents involved in very difficult decisions. You have physicians that are involved in these decisions. And I go back to William Buckley, I go back to Ronald Reagan, to principles of our party, which believes in a limited role of government.

Are we as a party abandoning a limited role of government and saying, we’re going to invoke the government decision making over and above physicians, over and above healthcare, over and above parents — and saying, you can’t do that. You cannot engage in it.

CARLSON: So you believe it is healthcare? How much — how deeply have you studied this topic? With respect — it doesn’t sound like you’ve studied it very deeply. I mean, this is an emerging field, there’s not a lot of research, but the research that exists suggests that depression and the urge to self-harm and suicide is a component, it is a side-effect of taking these hormones.

A study in the U.K. show the overwhelming majority of kids, of children on puberty-blocking hormones had the urge to hurt themselves. Why is that responsible medicine to do that to children? Why would you support something like that?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I actually reviewed some of that study. I reviewed the High Court decision there, and I think they are different than what you’re talking about here.

Sure, there’s a lot of unknowns here. I studied this bill, in contrast to what you just said. I spend a lot of time reviewing cases, meeting with people, listening to the experts, as well as to faith leaders as well.

And I’m a person of faith. But at the same time, I’m a person of limited role of government. I sign pro-life bills. I signed many bills that would be looked at as a very conservative, but this is one that crosses the line. There’s no need for it and it doesn’t justify itself.

CARLSON: Hold on, I am sorry, but hold on. You just said there is no need for it, but you just said — you said that you’ve seen research that shows the mental health of children who receive puberty-blocking drugs improves – – what is that research exactly?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the research that I’ve seen shows that these troubled youth, these ones that have gender dysphoria, that they also have depression, they have suicidal tendencies. It’s a higher suicide rate than others.


HUTCHINSON: And they go to their parents, the parents go to doctors, and they try to deal with is very difficult issue.

I don’t think we should deny them healthcare.

CARLSON: But do those symptoms improve — hold on, wait. Hold on. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You’re the Governor. You just vetoed this bill, you said you’re familiar with the studies. No one disputes that children who were asking for puberty-blocking drugs or have been recommended their parents or doctors, may be depressed. That seems very likely, I think the studies show it.

Cite one specific study that shows puberty-blocking drugs improves the condition. Does it make children less depressed? Does it make them less likely to harm themselves to commit suicide? Just name one study that shows that, please?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I would refer you to the “American Academy of Pediatrics.” I would refer you to the physicians that came out in opposition to this bill because they understood the risk to these young people. And if you prohibit the medical care that this bill prohibits, then you’re going to endanger these young people even further.

So I would cite all of those medical experts —

CARLSON: But how do we know that? Hold on. This field barely existed 10 years ago. Cases of gender dysphoria, so-called, have increased by thousands of percent in the last decade.

So actually, we can’t know the answers to these questions. The research that we have suggest the opposite of what you’re claiming. You clearly aren’t familiar with the research. And so my question is, have you spoken to any of the biggest employers, the big companies in Arkansas about this?

Have you taken any calls from Tyson’s? From Dillard? From Walmart? Has anyone from those companies called you about this bill?

HUTCHINSON: No, but Tucker, you’re saying, first of all, there are no studies —

CARLSON: You haven’t spoken to one corporate interest.

HUTCHINSON: And then you cite the study.

CARLSON: No, no. There is — hey, there is not a single study that I’m aware of, that shows an improvement in the mental health of children who take puberty blockers, who are chemically castrated, and you couldn’t cite one.

You’re not familiar with their research. You were told by doctors that it’s a good idea and you went with it. But I just want to clarify very quickly, have you — and I just want to be clear on this. Have you spoken to any corporate interest in the State of Arkansas about this bill?

HUTCHINSON: Tucker, I answered that. I answered that question. And I said, no, I have not.


HUTCHINSON: Do you have another question?

CARLSON: I’m skeptical because we’ve certainly seen across the —


CARLSON: Let me just say, Governor, with respect I’m skeptical that not a single corporation in the State of Arkansas has weighed in with you one way or the other on this bill. I am — I’m skeptical. I suppose, I have —

HUTCHINSON: You asked me if I talked to them. I said, I hadn’t.

Let me emphasize, Tucker, you are a conservative, you have a great background in that. Where are we getting back to the limited role of government that we don’t have to invoke ourselves in every societal position out there? Let’s limit the role of government. Let’s let parents and doctors make decisions.

CARLSON: And then why don’t we allow 18-year-olds to drink beer in Arkansas? Why don’t we allow them to get tattoos? Why don’t we allow 15- year-olds to get married?

You’re allowing — you vetoed a bill that would have protected children, not adults, children, to whom a different standard applies from a life altering permanent procedure that has effects we can only guess that but the early indication is they’re very serious and very negative in some cases.

And now you’re telling me you do that because you’re a friend of limited government? Okay, then why are we preventing kids from drinking? Sincere question — or getting married? Sincere question. Having sex? They’re not old enough to have sex, but they’re old enough to be chemically castrated? How does that work exactly? I’ll listen, as you explain.

HUTCHINSON: Well, thank you, Tucker. And first of all, these are difficult decisions. Do you want to listen to the medical profession? Do you want to listen to professional counselors? Do you want to listen to parents? Or do you want to leave all these decisions to the legislators that come from all different kinds of backgrounds? Yes, they’re elected to represent you. But they do not necessarily make the right judgments for parents and for doctors in the most sensitive issues, and so sure, I signed —

CARLSON: They why are we regulating the behavior of children at all, if we’re allowing children to decide? And by the way, I read a study today that showed the overwhelming majority of kids who do not take life-altering hormones, in the end, decide not to, quote, “transition to a new sex.”

So there’s a lot going on here, but I’m asking, as a conservative you just incited — invoked Ronald Reagan as if he were for chemical castration of children. What other behaviors should we not use the power of the state to regulate among kids? Seriously. Why can’t they have sex at 15?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you debate it every time — look, Tucker, you want to keep talking or do you want me to answer a question?

CARLSON: I sincerely want you to answer.

HUTCHINSON: Whenever you — well, thank you. And so whenever you — whether it’s beer for minors, these are all issues that you have to address the legislature. You make judgment calls on it.

But we also try to restrain ourselves as conservatives that we don’t have to be involved in every issue. And if you want to broaden the party, if you want to get back to the principles, then let’s at least think through in a reasoned way as to whether this is the right bill to interfere with parents’ and doctors’ decisions on a healthcare matter, as you pointed out, does not have thorough research in every area.

And so I yield to that. Whatever you look at this bill and my veto of it —

CARLSON: You yield to the lack of research. Really quick, 10 years ago, if somebody had said, Hey, Asa Hutchinson, you’re the Governor of Arkansas, and you’re going to veto a bill that would have protected children from chemical castration. What do you think he would have said?

HUTCHINSON: Well, just like I said, today, if you’re talking about a reassignment surgery, I would have signed that bill in a minute. But whenever you’re talking about maybe less than 200 kids in Arkansas that’s currently on hormone treatment, and they are immediately cut off without having a grandfather clause in his legislation. I don’t think that’s treating those kids or their parents or their healthcare providers fairly or equally.

CARLSON: All right. That’s the conservative position. Governor, thanks. I appreciate coming on.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor


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