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Arkansas’ GOP governor vetoes bill restricting transgender health care

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Arkansas’ Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill on Monday that would have restricted health care procedures for transgender minors. Transgender rights have become a new flashpoint for Republican lawmakers nationwide.  

“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 told reporters while announcing his veto.

He said the bill “while well-intended, is off-course,” calling it an example of “vast government overreach” that would create “legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.” 

The bill, called the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, would have banned gender transition treatments, including surgery and hormone therapy, for people under 18. Arkansas would have become the first state in the nation to outlaw these practices if Hutchinson signed it.

The governor further criticized the bill for not continuing care for transgender youth who are already received these treatments.

“We want to send a message of tolerance and diversity,” he said.

Arkansas’ GOP-led House and Senate passed the bill last month, mostly on party lines. Republicans have enough votes to override Hutchinson’s veto with a simple majority vote — something the governor said he already anticipates.

“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.

CBS News reached out for comment from Arkansas state Representative Robin Lundstrum and state Senator Alan Clark, two Republicans who were the bill’s lead sponsors. 

Hutchinson’s veto comes less than two weeks after he signed two other bills that restrict LGBT rights. 

One bill lets doctors refuse treatment for patients based on religious or moral objections — a move that critics said would allow for LGBT people to be turned away. 

The other bill bans transgender women and girls from participating in women’s sports teams. Arkansas was the second state in the U.S. to approve such legislation — after Idaho, whose law has been halted by a federal judge.

At least 25 states have seen similar measures proposed. Four states so far have passed the bans into law. 

South Dakota’s legislature passed a ban on transgender women playing on women’s sports team, but Republican Governor Kristi Noem said she did not believe the bills would survive legal challenges, and she instead issued a ban last week by executive order. 

The wave of bans comes after President Biden reversed many of the Trump administration’s LGBT restrictions, including a transgender military ban.



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