Arkansas’ Republican governor on Monday vetoed an anti-transgender health care bill that would’ve prohibited physicians in the state from providing gender-affirming “procedures” for trans people under age 18.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters that he killed HB 1570 because the bill “would be and is a vast government overreach” and because it would’ve created “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.”
The governor called the legislation “a product of the cultural war in America,” adding that his veto comes even though he believed the bill was “well-intended.”
CNN has reached out to the bill’s sponsor for comment on the governor’s veto.
The governor predicted during his remarks that the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly “will likely override” his veto, noting it takes only a simple majority to do so.
“I am 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,” he said.
The bill, called the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, passed the state Senate late last month by a vote of 28-7. The state House passed it in early March by a vote of 70-22. Had the governor approved it, Arkansas would’ve been the first state in the nation to outlaw gender-affirming health care for trans youth, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The bill made what it called an “exception” for some intersex people with unspecified chromosomal makeup and hormone production, and those with difficulties resulting from previous gender-affirming treatments. It also would have banned so-called “cross-hormone” therapy, a gender-affirming treatment that allows for trans people to change their physical appearance to be more consistent with their gender identity.
Hutchinson’s move comes as Republican politicians around the country push anti-trans legislation, and is seemingly at odds with the governor’s public stance on the issue in recent weeks, as he approved a separate bill last month that bans trans girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity and another bill that allows health care workers to refuse performing non-emergency procedures that go against their religious or moral beliefs.
LGBTQ and medical advocates had lobbied aggressively against HB 1570, which they feared could have significant negative impacts on trans youth, who have a much greater risk of suicide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, if they have access to a puberty blocker, their chances of suicide and mental health problems in the immediate term and down the road decline significantly, a study the CDC published in January of 2020 found.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, said the governor’s decision “is a huge victory for the transgender and nonbinary youth of Arkansas.”
“We hope this action sends a message to other lawmakers across the country considering similar bans on gender-affirming medical care, which would only work to endanger young trans lives,” said Sam Brinton, the group’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Lauren Holt and Kay Jones contributed to this report.