LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new bill in the state legislature is bringing more focus on the debate of gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth.
This comes in the midst of a legal battle between the ACLU and the state over the SAFE Act legislators passed last session. The law bans gender-affirming treatment for minors, though it is now on hold. It is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge James Moody, with a ruling to come any day now.
SB199 “Protecting Minors from Medical Malpractice Act” was introduced Monday in the legislature and looks to hold healthcare professionals liable if their gender transition treatment given to minors results in any damages, whether physical, psychological, or emotional. It would give minors up to 30 years to pursue a civil suit.
Rep. Mary Bentley (R-District 54) is one of the lawmakers behind this effort. She said one of the main goals is to give parents another reason to pause and consider the risks, or at least the unknowns.
“We still don’t know the long-term effects because FDA has not approved any of these puberty blockers for children,” Bentley said.
“As a registered nurse, I worked at Children’s and really loved helping take care of children to me, this is an extension of that,” she said.
Lowen Bryan is a transgender man who said the concern for their community – specifically children – should look different.
“In reality, we are searching for happiness and for ourselves,” Bryan said. “I don’t think they understand the consequences of what it would mean to not support them.”
Bryan fears this is creating fear among Arkansans for no reason.
“It might seem like we’re looking out for the children but we’re not — we’re looking out for parent’s fears,” Bryan said.
Bryan said it is clear the legislature has a focus on the transgender community this session and he hoped speaking with KARK would give them a voice as well. As parents listen to legislators on these matters, he hopes to encourage parents to listen to their kids as well.
ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director, Holly Dickson provided a comment in response to the bill:
“SB199 is yet another attempt by some politicians and special interest groups to deny transgender youth the lifesaving medical care they need. Gender-affirming care is the only evidence-based medical treatment for gender dysphoria and is a critical part of helping transgender youth succeed in school, establish healthy relationships with their friends and family, and live authentically as themselves. Medical and mental health professionals agree this care is safe, effective, and necessary. It’s past time for lawmakers to stop listening to harmful myths and stereotypes and start listening to the transgender youth most affected by this legislation.”
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.