Arkansas governor apologises to trans youth after ‘extreme’ healthcare ban forced through

Patrick Kelleher
·2-min read

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has apologised to trans youth after the state legislature banned gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.

House Bill 1570 was passed into law on Tuesday (6 April), meaning healthcare professionals in the state will be legally prohibited from offering healthcare such as puberty blockers and hormone treatment to trans youth.

The bill originally passed through the House of Representatives and Senate in March before making its way to the governor’s desk – but Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill on Monday (5 April), calling it “vast government overreach”. The legislature opted to override Hutchinson’s veto just 24 hours later.

Speaking to NPR following the legislature’s decision, Hutchinson offered an apology to those impacted by the dehumanising law.

When asked by host Ari Shapiro what he would say to a transgender minor whose treatment will now cease, Hutchinson replied: “Well, I’m sorry.”

Asa Hutchinson said situations like the one mentioned by Shapiro are “exactly the reason” he vetoed the bill in the first place, as it would not be right for the state to “interrupt a treatment that the parents had agreed to” along with the patient and a physician.

The governor reaffirmed his previously stated position – that he would have signed the bill into law if it had banned gender-affirming surgeries for minors in Arkansas. However, he noted that such practices are currently not offered to young people.

Arkansas governor wasn’t surprised his veto was overridden

Elsewhere in the interview, Hutchinson said it was “disappointing” that the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate opted to override his veto, but said it was “no surprise” because it had already passed through both houses with “overwhelming support”.

“It was too broad, and it did not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment,” Hutchinson said, adding that the bill will put trans people in a “difficult position”.

The governor also urged Republicans to “rethink our engagement” with the so-called “culture wars”, saying the party has traditionally advocated for a restrained model of government that doesn’t “jump in the middle of every issue”.

“In this case, it is a very sensitive matter that involves parents, and it involves physicians. And we ought to yield to that decision-making,” he said, adding that the bill was “too extreme” for him to sign.

The Arkansas legislature’s decision to push the law through, despite the governor’s veto, sent a bolt of anger through America’s LGBT+ community.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) plans to bring forward a legal challenge in an effort to have the bill struck down, while other LGBT+ organisations hit out at lawmakers for targeting trans youth.