Arkansas is poised to become the first state in the nation to ban healthcare for trans youth after state lawmakers on Monday passed House Bill 157.
The ACLU of Arkansas warned last week that the legislation, which blocks healthcare providers from providing gender-affirming care or referring patients for such care, was "one of the most extreme and harmful anti-trans bills in the country."
H.B. 1570 easily passed the state Senate Monday in a 28-7 vote. It now heads to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson—who last week signed into law a ban on transgender girls from participating in school sports. Hutchinson is facing demands to veto H.B. 1570 because, as the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund put it, "Trans youth lives are at stake."
HB 1570 was just passed through both chambers in the Arkansas legislature, banning trans youth from accessing health care and health insurance coverage that we deserve and need.— ACLU (@ACLU) March 29, 2021
Our rights and lives are under attack.
Governor Hutchinson must veto this bill.
Critics of the measure include the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and American Academy of Pediatrics. Among the state Democrats opposed to the measure is Sen. Clarke Tucker, who addressed Monday the argument put forth by the Republican sponsor of H.B. 1570, state Sen. Alan Clark
The Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported:
Tucker, D-Little Rock, said bills like this have already been struck down by courts for violating the Equal Protection Clause under the U.S. Constitution and for violating the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex under the federal Civil Rights Act.
"I absolutely have full faith in your intent, Sen. Clark, to protect kids in the state, but you have to be aware of the message that is sent when you pass a piece of legislation like this," and it's a message of discrimination to the rest of the nation, he said.
In a Twitter thread Monday, Clarke continued to speak out against the measure. "My heart breaks for our state, because I know how this bill makes us look to the nation and to the world," he tweeted.
"My heart breaks for doctors and nurses," he wrote, "who can no longer care for their patients, and even more for parents, who are no longer able to make healthcare decisions for their own kids."
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"Most important, my heart breaks for transgender teenagers," Clarke continued. "With this bill, the chances go up that a transgender teenager who needs care but can't get it will attempt suicide."
Chase Strangio deputy director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, warned last week that that if H.B. 1570 becomes law, it could "likely set off a chain reaction and could encourage Alabama to pass [its] FELONY ban on healthcare for trans youth (SB10/HB1), which could be voted on next week as well."
"Stripping youth of this care even when it is recommended by their doctors, supported by their parents, and demanded by the dire situations of the youth is cruel and deadly," tweeted Stangio.
Further troubling to trans rights activists is the fact that the legislative attacks against trans youth in Arkansas are being seen across the nation. As NBC News reported:
The bill is one of two types of legislation being considered in more than two dozen states: measures that ban or restrict access to gender-affirming care for trans minors, and those that ban trans young people from competing in school sports teams of their gender identity...
In addition to Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee are also advancing restrictions on gender-affirming care. Alabama's Senate approved a bill that would make it a felony to provide care such as puberty blockers or hormones for trans minors, and a Tennessee House Committee also just advanced a similar measure that includes misdemeanor criminal penalties.
In light of such attacks, trans advocates are amplifying messages of respect and care for the community.
In a message to trans youth posted Monday on its Facebook page, Arkansas-based social justice group Intransitive wrote: "YOU are loved."
"There is more love than there is hate. This is not the end. Please know that," the group said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who is mother to a gender non-conforming child, condemned H.B. 1570 as amounting to "a cruel, abhorrent, and transphobic attack on human rights."
She also called for the House-passed Equality Act to become law, adding, "Let's put an end to this hate."