As much progress as we’ve made in the last few years securing rights for LGBTQ+ people, we cannot go without acknowledging that transgender people’s rights are constantly under attack. Trans people’s right to health care, to housing, to exist peacefully as themselves is consistently debated in the media and by legislators. Recently, Arkansas legislators have launched a serious attack on trans youth and trans people in the state with anti-trans health care legislation known as House Bill 1570 (HB1570) — and it can’t be overstated that this bill essentially criminalizes health care for trans people.
This is only one in a series of anti-trans bills passed in Arkansas recently. Another, SB289, would allow doctors and health care workers to deny services based on religious or moral beliefs. While this would not just affect the LGBTQ+ community, they are the intended target of this pointed attack. In the state of Arkansas, House Bill 1570 would completely stop doctors from providing life-saving and medically necessary health care for transgender teenagers. If signed into law, it would deny young people essential care that allows them to be themselves openly and safely, and it would take away parents’ and guardians’ rights to make decisions about young people’s care as well.
Additionally, the bill mandates that private insurers are allowed to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for people of any age — putting all trans people in Arkansas at risk. Yesterday, the Arkansas State Legislature overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill, and now it sits on the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson waiting to be approved or vetoed.
“It’s really hard to put into words just how evil this is but I think part of what makes this legislation particularly heinous is how broad it is. This isn’t just limiting access to gender related care or gender affirming surgery, but for all types of healthcare that LGBTQ+ patients need, including medically necessary procedures, primary care, medications, and therapy,” Isaac McManus, a Care Coordinator on the Included Health team says. “LGBTQ+ individuals already struggle to find medical care, and bills that legalize discrimination and bigotry only further that disparity. Governor Hutchinson’s personal campaign of hatred and bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community is going to cost human lives.”
This law is not just any law. It is unlike any piece of legislation ever passed, and it will do irreparable damage to all trans people, given that the consequences of the bill, should it be passed by Governor Hutchinson, extend far beyond the state of Arkansas alone. HB1570 becoming law could encourage states like Alabama, which is currently considering similar legislation, to pass anti-trans health care legislation. Other states will follow suit.
“Best practice medical care for trans youth delays puberty until they’re old enough to make choices about their own gender. This bill would take away that opportunity,” Dr. Lee Savio Beers, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics said during a press conference hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Monday, March 29. “This legislation would allow policy-makers rather than pediatricians [real licensed medical providers!] to determine the best course of care for trans people. Under this bill, doctors and medical professionals would be penalized for trying to care for patients.”
We know that so many of the members we work with at Included Health share the same story as many trans people in Arkansas. “Many of our members have avoided seeking the medical care they need out of fear and the very real threat of discrimination and bigotry. HB1570 and bills like it are sending the message to trans people that our lives don’t have value, and it’s heartbreaking,” says Isaac, who lives about 30 minutes from the Arkansas border and has many friends and loved ones in Arkansas. “I’m genuinely afraid for them and what this means for all the other anti-trans bills we see right now across the U.S.”
As a team made up of LGBTQ+ people and allies who have also experienced marginalization or harm from violent systems, we care deeply and personally about hateful legislation like this. In times like these, our trans team members are hurting personally, and yet we want to show up for the people in our community who need us — so we will keep fighting for your right to affirming care, in all aspects of your lives.
What can we all do to help make sure that HB1570 is vetoed? E-mail and call Governor Hutchinson’s office, and read more about the effects of the bill’s passage here. You can e-mail the Governor at email@example.com or call 501-682-2345. Scripts can be found here for what to say, if you feel unsure. You can also follow Intransitive, a grassroots organization in Arkansas doing work on the ground to stop this.
As always, the Included Health team is working around the clock to protect and uplift the trans community. Trans people deserve access to affirming health care, without exception. If there is anything Included Health can do to support you or your family through this time, please do not hesitate to contact our team.March 30, 2021
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