By Daniel Trotta
(Reuters) -Arkansas lawmakers passed a measure on Monday that could make the state the first in the country to prevent doctors from providing certain types of care to transgender youth, part of a wave of U.S legislation that would restrict transgender rights.
The Arkansas legislation threatens any healthcare professional who provides puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender-affirming surgery to minors with losing their medical license and opens them up to lawsuits from patients who later regret their procedures.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has declined to say whether he would sign the bill into law.
Sixteen other states are considering similar bills. Civil rights organizations have said they are likely to sue to stop any such bills that are enacted.
On Friday, Hutchinson signed another bill opposed by transgender advocates, which would ban transgender women and girls from playing female sports.
Republicans across the country have introduced a record 127 bills on transgender issues in 22 states this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ organization in the United States.
Like Arkansas, Mississippi also enacted a law this month that ban athletes who were designated male at birth from playing women's or girls sports at public schools or universities. Idaho passed one last year that was blocked by a federal court.
Proponents of the medical legislation say they want to protect children from irreversible procedures they could later regret.
"They're not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions," said Tennessee state Representative John Ragan, the lead sponsor of a bill that would ban most transgender treatment for minors unless it has the consent of three physicians.
Transgender advocates see the proposals as a political ploy to whip up right-wing outrage. They contend the measures are unconstitutional, defy the best medical science and rely on outdated stereotypes.
"As a trans person, as a parent, I can't stress enough how devastating the consequences would be," Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, told a news conference on Monday.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents 67,000 pediatricians, was among several medical organizations to oppose the Arkansas bill, saying it would cut off trans kids from needed medical care and needlessly increase their already high risk of suicide.
(Reporting by Daniel TrottaEditing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)