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Arkansas lawmakers pass ban on transgender medical treatments for youths

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas state legislators voted Tuesday to pass the nation's first law banning gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors, overriding a veto from their governor and intense opposition from major medical organizations across the country.

Arkansas state legislators voted Tuesday to pass the nation's first law banning gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors, overriding a veto from their governor and intense opposition from major medical organizations across the country.

Arkansas legislators voted 25-8 in the Senate and 71-24 in the House to override the veto from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and pass legislation that would prohibit doctors from providing transgender minors with medical care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapies and transition-related surgeries, and from referring them for such treatments. The bill is part of a Republican-led wave of similar legislation in at least 17 other states seeking to restrict access to medical treatments for transgender minors.

A day earlier, Hutchinson had stunned advocates by issuing a veto of the ban, calling it a "vast government overreach" and urging conservative legislators to take a more restrained approach. He said that if signed into law, the bill would interfere with physicians and parents "as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people." He cited opposition from leading national medical associations that said denying access to such medical care could jeopardize the mental health of an already vulnerable community.

"The bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment," Hutchinson said. "The young people who are currently under a doctor's care will be without treatment when this law goes into effect. That means they will be looking to the black market or go out of state if they can afford it to find the treatment that they want and need. This is not the right path to put them on."

But state legislators, who needed only a simple majority to override the governor's veto, voted to pass the bill anyway, setting the stage for a potential legal battle. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to challenge the ban in court.

Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that state legislators "disregarded widespread, overwhelming, and bipartisan opposition to this bill and continued their discriminatory crusade against trans youth."

"As Governor Hutchinson noted in his veto message, denying care to trans youth can lead to harmful and life-threatening consequences," Dickson said. "This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over - and we're in it for the long haul. Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, it's also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court."

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