Arkansas politicians overrode a gubernatorial veto this week to criminalize gender-affirming health care for trans youth. This marks the first anti-trans health care bill to become state law as part of a national offensive by the bigoted right wing. Trans youth already in the middle of receiving treatment will be deprived of necessary health care.
The bill criminalizes providing puberty blockers and gender-affirming treatment for anyone under 18 with the justification that “[o]nly a small percentage” of people need the treatment. Doctors who flout the ban will be at risk of losing their medical license, along with potential civil and other penalties. The trans-phobic law also removes the tax-deductible status from gender-affirming treatment for adults as part of a medical operation, effectively adding a tax solely on transgender patients.
The law ultimately passed after a 71 to 24 vote in the state House and 25 to 8 vote in the state Senate to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto. Hutchinson is no progressive — far from it. In 2015, Hutchinson announced he was banning any Syrian refugee from entering Arkansas. To avoid the state’s supply of poison chemicals used for lethal injection from expiring and going to waste, he ordered prison authorities to go on a killing spree, executing eight people in 11 days in 2017. Thousands of Arkansas residents were kicked off Medicaid the following year after the state government implemented anti-worker employment requirements.
Why would someone as vile as Hutchinson decide to try to stop the anti-trans bill’s passage? The only explanation is that he was forced to by the outpouring of anger across the state and the country that had the potential to disrupt “business as usual” in Arkansas. Even though the law was ultimately revived by the legislature, that Hutchinson felt compelled to veto it in the first place is evidence that even reactionary politicians can be forced to give concessions by the people’s movement.
Across the country the right wing is advancing more attacks on trans people and particularly youth. Several states have or are considering banning transgender athletes from participating in sports as their gender. Nearly 30 states have had such bills introduced this year.
As Liberation News reported in a previous article on a similar bill in Alabama, these bills are rooted in anti-trans bigotry and are written in defiance of basic science and standards of medical care. The real motivation behind this attack is to inflame anti-trans sentiment and divide the working class against itself by inflicting maximum cruelty on a vulnerable group of children.