The Arkansas Senate passed the “Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act” on Monday, and now it heads to Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson’s desk for him to sign into law.
The state government has a compelling interest in “protecting the health and safety of its citizens, especially vulnerable children,” House Bill 1570 says. “For the small percentage of children who are gender nonconforming or experience distress at identifying with their biological sex, studies consistently demonstrate that the majority come to identify with their biological sex in adolescence or adulthood, thereby rendering most physiological interventions unnecessary.”
“Furthermore, scientific studies show that individuals struggling with distress at identifying with their biological sex often have already experienced psychopathology, which indicates these individuals should be encouraged to seek mental health services to address comorbidities and underlying causes of their distress before undertaking any hormonal or surgical intervention,” the bill states. “Even among people who have undergone inpatient gender reassignment procedures, suicide rates, psychiatric morbidities, and mortality rates remain markedly elevated above the background population.”
The bill bans:
- A physician or other healthcare professional from providing gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen (18) years of age.
- A physician, or other healthcare professional from referring any individual under eighteen (18) years of age to any healthcare professional for gender transition procedures.
- Public funds from being directly or indirectly used, granted, paid, or distributed to any entity, organization, or individual that provides gender transition procedures to an individual under eighteen (18) years of age.
The bill has several carveouts for certain medical circumstances in which doctors can use certain procedures and treatments.
Any medical professional who violates the law is subject to “discipline by the appropriate licensing entity or disciplinary 31 review board with competent jurisdiction in this state.” The state attorney general can also get involved to bring “action to enforce compliance.”
The bill does not go as far as a bill proposed in South Carolina by Democrat state Rep. Cezar McKnight (101), who introduced the “South Carolina Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” earlier this month, which would ban minors from being able to receive transgender surgeries and medical treatments and would charge any person with felonies, with the potential of prison sentences of up to 20 years, for violating the proposed law.
The proposed bill states in part:
…no person shall engage in, counsel, make a referral for, or cause any of the following practices to be performed upon a minor if the practice is performed for the purpose of attempting to alter the appearance of or affirm the minor’s perception of the minor’s gender or sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the minor’s sex as defined in this chapter:
(1) prescribing, dispensing, administering, or otherwise supplying puberty-blocking medication to stop or delay normal puberty;
(2) prescribing, dispensing, administering, or otherwise supplying supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or other androgens to females;
(3) prescribing, dispensing, administering, or otherwise supplying supraphysiologic doses of estrogen to males;
(4) performing surgeries that sterilize, including castration, vasectomy, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, orchiectomy, and penectomy;
(5) performing surgeries that artificially construct tissue with the appearance of genitalia that differs from the individual’s sex, including metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, and vaginoplasty; or
(6) removing any healthy or nondiseased body part or tissue.
“Black Democrats tend to be more conservative than white progressives,” McKnight told the AP. “I would not have ever put this bill forward if I didn’t think the people in my district wouldn’t be receptive, and they are. Pastors, young parents, older parents, they all tell me the same thing: if you want to do this, wait until you’re 18.”
McKnight doubled down on his comments in an interview with Fox News, saying, “And one thing that I think my party needs to understand is African American Democrats are very much more conservative than their than their white, Caucasian counterparts.”