Gov. Hutchinson Says Bill to Prohibit ‘Gender Transition Procedures for Minors’ is ‘Vast Government Overreach’

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas (Screen Capture)

Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas (Screen Capture)

(CNSNews.com) – Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas said at an April 5 press conference that a bill passed by the Arkansas state legislature that would prohibit “gender transition procedures for minors” was a “vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson vetoed the bill that day.

The key element in the bill said: “A physician or healthcare professional shall not provide gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen (18) years of age.”

“‘Gender transition procedures,’” the bill said, “means any medical or surgical service, including without limitation physicians’ services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, or prescribed drugs related to gender transition that seeks to: (i) Alter or remove physical or anatomical characteristics or features that are typical for the individual’s biological sex; or (ii) Instill or create physiological or anatomical characteristics that resemble a sex different from the individual’s biological sex, including without limitation medical services that provide puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or other mechanisms to promote the development of feminizing or masculinizing features in the opposite biological sex, or genital or nongenital gender reassignment surgery performed for the purpose of assisting an individual with a gender transition.”

In March, Hutchinson had signed two other bills that raised issues related to transgenderism. One of those bills banned biological males from participating in amateur girls’ sports through the college level. Another created a conscience exemption for health care workers, so they will not have to engage in procedures to which they conscientiously object. That would include gender transition procedures.

But on April 5, Hutchinson vetoed the bill passed by the Arkansas legislature that would prohibit gender transition procedures for minors, whether they involved drugs or surgical actions. In announcing his veto, Hutchinson noted that in Arkansas “gender reassignment surgery is not performed on anyone under age 18.”

“I was told this week that the nation is looking at Arkansas, because I have on my desk another bill passed by the General Assembly that is a product of the cultural war in America,” Hutchinson said at his April 5 press conference.  “I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible, but the most recent action of the General Assembly, while well-intended, is off course and I must veto House Bill 1570.

“I have signed the veto of House Bill 1570 today,” he said.

“If House Bill 1570 becomes law then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people,” Hutchinsson said.

“It is undisputed that the population of minors who struggle with gender incongruity or gender dysphoria is an extreme minority,” he said. “But while they are a minority, they deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the healthcare professionals that their family has chosen.

“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and healthcare experts,” said Hutchinson. “While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”

“In Arkansas, gender reassignment surgery is not performed on anyone under age 18,” said Hutchinson. “If House Bill 1570, simply prohibited gender reassignment surgeries, then I would sign the bill. But the bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment. In other words, 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.”

Hutchinson claimed that vetoing this bill that would have prohibited transition procedures for minors was consistent with “conservative philosophy.”

“Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained,” he said. “This is an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society”.

Hutchinson lamented that the laws he had signed to ban biological males from girls’ sports and to provide a conscience exemption for health care workers had been “considered as anti-transgender, anti-gay.”

“Now, the sad part about it is that the first two measures were considered as anti-transgender, anti-gay, perhaps, and I think that is far from the truth,” said Hutchinson. “But you have to be concerned about the image that you are expressing from a state’s standpoint.

“And, you know,” he said, “I want people in Arkansas and across the country to understand that whether they’re transgender or otherwise, that they’re loved, they’re appreciated and they make a part of our state and we want to send a message of tolerance and diversity.”

Here is a transcript of part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s press conference on his vetoing of the bill that would have prohibited transitioning procedures for minors:

Gov. Asa Hutchison: “I was told this week that the nation is looking at Arkansas, because I have on my desk another bill passed by the General Assembly that is a product of the cultural war in America. I don’t shy away from the battle when it is necessary and defensible, but the most recent action of the General Assembly, while well-intended, is off course and I must veto House Bill 1570. I have signed the veto of House Bill 1570 today. I have notified the sponsors as well as the leadership in the House and Senate as well. But I wanted today to explain a little bit of the reasoning.

“If House Bill 1570 becomes law then we are creating new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people. It is undisputed that the population of minors who struggle with gender incongruity or gender dysphoria is an extreme minority. But while they are a minority, they deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the healthcare professionals that their family has chosen.

“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and healthcare experts. While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue. This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.

“House Bill 1570 is opposed by the leading Arkansas medical associations, and the concern expressed is that denying best medical care to transgender youth can lead to significant harm to the young person from suicidal tendencies and social isolation to increased drug use.

“In Arkansas, gender reassignment surgery is not performed on anyone under age 18. If House Bill 1570, simply prohibited gender reassignment surgeries, then I would sign the bill. But the bill is overbroad, extreme and does not grandfather those young people who are currently under hormone treatment. In other words, 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.

“Finally, I understand that the General Assembly will likely override his veto. House Bill 1570 had overwhelming support when it passed the first time, and as you know, it takes a simple majority to override the governor’s veto in Arkansas. I’m hopeful though that my action will cause conservative Republican legislators to think through the issue again, and hopefully come up with a more restrained approach that allows a thoughtful study of the science and ethics surrounding the issue before acting. Government under a conservative philosophy should be restrained, this is an example of where restraint is better than overbroad actions that interfere with important relationships in our society.

Reporter: “Governor, this action, does this reflect any reconsideration of signing the other measures have targeted transgender people in Arkansas? And also, are you hoping to send a message to legislators about other measures that are out there dealing with transgender youth that are still in the pipeline?

Hutchinson: “You take each bill separately, and as you know from my previous comments, the two previous bills related to transgender concern were the Medical Conscience Act, which was broader than simply transgender, that covers a whole host of medical procedures or activity that someone may have a religious or a conscious conviction against. And I look at that as consistent with freedom, it’s consistent with the being able to decide in a non-emergent fashion as to the health care services that you want to provide. And so I saw that as separate and distinct. The second bill was the Girls in Sport. And as I said, I’m a fan of women’s sports, and I think it undermined women’s sports to have biological males to compete in girls’ sports in high school or college level. So I look at those as totally independent and separate measures.

“Now, the sad part about it is that the first two measures were considered as anti-transgender, anti-gay, perhaps, and I think that is far from the truth. But you have to be concerned about the image that you are expressing from a state’s standpoint. And, you know, I want people in Arkansas and across the country to understand that whether they’re transgender or otherwise, that they’re loved, they’re appreciated and they make a part of our state and we want to send a message of tolerance and diversity. And so I look at this bill totally separately, though, and each one of them stands on their own. And I do believe the legislators have been very well-intentioned on this, they want to do what they see as the right thing, but I have one vote to cast and I have to cast it in this fashion.”

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