What are puberty blockers? Arkansas bans doctors from prescribing drug to transgender youth under 18
Arkansas becomes the first state in the US to ban doctors from administering puberty blockers and hormone procedures on transgender youth aged below 18. Lawmakers passed the bill on Monday, March 29 that would prevent doctors from administering certain kinds of procedures and care for trans people.
Any physician who does not adhere to the set rules will risk losing their medical license. This will also open them up to lawsuits from patients who later regret their procedures. The procedures do not only include puberty blockers and hormone treatment but surgery as well.
Arkansas' Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson refused to comment on whether this will be signed into law, but it must be noted that the state legislature is a Republican majority. In an email to the Daily Mail, however, the governor's spokesperson Katie Beck said, "The governor will review the bill more closely, listen to the debate, study it and make a decision on the legislation."
It has been reported that Hutchinson had previously signed a bill that would ban transgender women and girls from playing female sports. Hutchinson also signed a bill that would allow doctors to turn away patients because of religious or moral objections. It has been argued that this could, in a wider perspective, be used to turn patients belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community as well.
The Medical Conscience Objections Law is expected to take effect late this summer and it states that health care workers and institutions have the right to not perform a procedure or administer non-emergency treatments that violate their conscience. According to Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ organization in the United States reported that Republicans have introduced a record number of 127 bills in 22 states.
Similar to Arkansas, Mississippi also enacted a law that bans athletes assigned male at birth from playing women's or girls' sports in schools or universities. The one passed by Idaho in 2020 was however blocked by the federal court. Tennessee State Representative John Ragan, who happens to be the lead sponsor of a bill that looks to ban all procedures on trans minors unless three physicians agree on performing the same. Ragan said, "They're not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions."
Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday at a news conference spoke about this and said, "As a trans person, as a parent, I can't stress enough how devastating the consequences would be." Raquel Willis wrote on Twitter, "Transphobes don't just strip trans women of being women and trans men of being men... as you can see in Arkansas and states across the country, they strip trans children of being children, and essentially, they strip all trans people of simply being people."
Willis further added in a long thread, "trans + gender nonconforming youth have always been under attack, but this era is different because we literally have lawmakers targetting children because they don't want the general public to know that we are natural, human, and a version of freedom too alluring not to cherish."
trans + gender nonconforming youth have always been under attack, but this era is different because we literally have lawmakers targetting children because they don't want the general public to know that we are natural, human, and a version of freedom too alluring not to cherish— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) March 30, 2021
The American Academy of Pediatrics that represents around 67,000 pediatricians is one among many to have opposed the Arkansas bill. They explained that this move would cut off trans kids from needed medical care and needlessly increase their already high risk of suicide.
What are puberty blockers?
Puberty blockers, as the name suggests, are drugs that would aid in halting puberty hitting individuals who identify as trans. They would work by blocking testosterone or estrogen, which are hormones that would usually lead to puberty-related changes occurring in one's body. For instance, the blockers will stop teenagers who are assigned female at birth from developing breasts and getting their periods while it would stop teenagers who are assigned male from developing facial hair growth and the deepening of the voice.
This step helps young people decide on how and if they want to transition. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone is reportedly the most commonly used puberty blocker. When one decides that they are ready to transition, they begin to then take the hormones.
Dr. Loren Schechter, a plastic surgeon, explained how the process of prescribing blockers and hormone treatments work: "There's a misperception that we automatically set them on this path from puberty blockers to hormones to surgery. These are very considered decisions. The process can occur over years before surgery is considered."