March 29 (UPI) — Arkansas on Monday passed a bill that would ban access to gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormones to transgender minors.
The measure passed the state Senate by a vote of 28-7, sending it to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who last week signed a bill banning transgender women and girls from participating on women’s and girls’ sports teams.
The legislation prohibits public funds from being granted to organizations or entities providing gender transition procedures to people younger than 18; bans state-owned facilities from providing transition-related care; and bars the state’s Medicaid program from reimbursing or providing coverage of gender-affirming care to minors.
Doctors found in violation of the ban would be subject to having their licenses revoked.
State Sen. Alan Clark, one of the bill’s Republican sponsors, criticized the gender-affirming treatments as “at best experimental,” stating during the vote that the bill would “protect children from making mistakes that they will have a very difficult time coming back from.”
“I know that their parents are looking for any kind of answer and my heart truly goes out to them,” said Clark. “But this is certainly not the answer.”
Major medical organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society have supported granting access to gender-affirming care to minors diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & HIV Project, told NBC News the measure is “the most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”
He expressed concern it would cause transgender youth already receiving such care to lose access.
“I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed and we barely have a mention of it in the bigger national conversation of what’s going on in this particular moment in U.S. history,” Strangio said.
Alabama’s Senate and a Tennessee House Committee have passed similar laws introducing criminal penalties to provide gender-affirming care to minors.