The legislature of Arkansas on April 6 overrode a veto from the governor of a bill outlawing gender-transition procedures, including surgeries and hormone treatments, for minors in the state.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, praised the bill’s passage as a protective measure for children in the state.
“Our laws should protect every child’s opportunity to have a natural childhood. While approaches may differ, we should all agree that there is nothing natural or healthy about pumping kids full of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones,” Christiana Holcomb, legal counsel for ADF, said in a statement to CNA.
“Children should not be pushed to receive experimental treatments that can leave them permanently sterile and physically marred for life.”
The Diocese of Little Rock, which encompasses the entire state, said in an April 7 statement to CNA that while it fully affirms the Church’s teaching on human sexuality, it did not take a position one way or another on this particular bill.
“The Diocese affirms the Church’s constant teaching that— with the rare exception of one’s reproductive organs not matching one’s chromosomes— our gender is to be considered harmonious with our biological sex and thus should not be subject to change,” the statement said.
“Whether [this bill] is the best way to adequately address that truth for adolescents and minors may be up for debate and differing prudential judgments.”
In March, the state’s Senate approved House Bill 1570, the “To Create The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act.” The bill prohibited a “physician or other healthcare professional” from providing “gender transition procedures to any individual under eighteen (18) years of age.”
In addition to banning the procedures for minors, the bill also blocked referrals, public funding, and insurance coverage for these procedures.
Hutchinson cited the bill’s “over-broad” nature and the lack of a “grandfather clause” for children already in the process of transitioning as reasons he did not sign the bill. He has said that if the bill merely outlawed gender-transition surgeries for minors, he would have signed it.
On Tuesday, both the state House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to override his veto, with the House voting 71-25 and the Senate 25-8 in favor of the veto override.
Pro-LGBT groups who condemned the Arkansas law claimed that children are far more likely to commit suicide if they are not allowed to transition, but research shows that facilitating a child’s gender transition “does not reduce and may even exacerbate the psychological distress that could lead to suicide,” according to materials from the Person and Identity Project.
The Catholic Medical Association has noted that in cases of gender dysphoria among children, there is little to no evidence that giving the child puberty blockers and facilitating their “transition” is beneficial for the child.
“We really don’t know much about gender dysphoria—what causes it, how to treat it. We do know that in most cases it resolves by the end of puberty. That alone indicates that we should be cautious in our approach to irreversible medical and surgical interventions,” Dr. Barbara Golder of the Catholic Medical Association wrote in a Feb. 2020 statement.
Dr. Michael Parker, president of Catholic Medical Association, noted in the same statement that “there is not a single long-term study to establish the safety of using puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones in physically normal youth.”
During June 2019, the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” condemning so-called gender theory and reiterating that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and women, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.
The Little Rock diocese’s statement to CNA noted that while a person’s biological sex cannot be changed, people who identify as LGBT should never be subject to bullying or harassment.
In February, Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock was one of twelve U.S. Catholic bishops who signed onto a statement in opposition to “violence, bullying or harassment” directed at those who identify as LGBT.
The statement reads in part: “All people of goodwill should help, support, and defend LGBT youth; who attempt suicide at much higher rates than their straight counterparts; who are often homeless because of families who reject them; who are rejected, bullied and harassed; and who are the target of violent acts at alarming rates.”
“It is not inconsistent to oppose any form of bullying, harassment, and violence against LGBT youth…while simultaneously affirming the truths of our created biological sex,” the statement from the diocese concluded.
“As Catholics, we believe that eternal truths are ultimately for our good, even when we may personally struggle or disagree with them.”
The question of whether children should be allowed puberty-blocking drugs is being litigated in other countries as well.
In Dec. 2020, the UK high court ruled that children are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to medical treatment involving drugs that delay puberty, with three senior judges saying that doctors may require court authorization to begin puberty-blocking treatment involving teenagers. In March this year, that ruling was effectively overturned.
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