In a media appearance Monday, Hutchinson said concern about government overreach influenced his decision.
“House Bill 1570 would put the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health care experts,” he said. “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,” he added.
The bill would have prohibited doctors from providing minors with treatments including puberty blockers, hormone therapies or any other transition procedures. Physicians who nonetheless did so could have seen their medical licenses revoked.
Despite the governor’s action, the bill isn’t totally dead yet: Legislators could override the veto with a simple majority vote of both chambers. The Arkansas Senate voted 28-7 last week in favor of the bill, which was called the Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation, or SAFE, Act.
Hutchinson characterized the lawmakers’ efforts as “well-intended” yet nevertheless “off-course,” and he expressed concerns about how the bill would harm the mental health of transgender youth, perhaps leading to an increase in suicide, social isolation and drug abuse.
He added that while the number of people who would be affected is “an extreme minority,” they nevertheless “deserve the guiding hand of their parents and of the health care professionals that their family has chosen.”
The medical treatments that HB 1570 would have banned are reversible, as The Washington Post noted. And U.S. medical guidelines state that more permanent actions, such as gender-affirming surgeries, shouldn’t typically be performed until a patient is at least 18 years old.
HB 1570 is one of several anti-transgender bills that Republicans are pushing in at least 17 statehouses around the country. In addition to targeting access to medical care, legislation that limits transgender kids’ participation in sports that align with their gender identity has also become common.
Last week, Hutchinson signed a separate bill into law with precisely that purpose.