Medical experts agree: Gender-affirming care is medically necessary care that can be life-saving for transgender youth. Medical decisions belong to trans youth, their parents, and their doctors. Yet politicians are trying come between trans youth and the care they need. In 2020, 15 states introduced legislation that would ban — and in some instances criminalize — access to health care for transgender youth. The Arkansas legislature passed such a bill into law on March 29 and 16 other states introduced similar legislation this year.
The “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” is a damaging bill that, if passed, will have tremendous and lasting negative effects on youth. I urge other adults — doctors, nurses, teachers, principals, counselors, therapists, and parents and even adolescents to educate others and speak out on the negative impacts that this act will have on the health of adolescents who identify as transgender or have dysphoria. If this bill were to become law, it would set a terrible precedent that could be replicated in other states. It would go against the solemn promise that I made when I became a physician: “first do no harm.”
Pediatrician Dr. Michele Hutchison (Arkansas)
To me, these bills are intended to insinuate that the care I provide to trans youth is harmful and abusive, and they interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. Let’s be clear; I provide lifesaving treatment that improves health, life, and well-being. I approach decisions about treatment carefully over time, with input from an interdisciplinary team, together with youth and their caregivers, and by established guidelines.
Our research team from Harvard Medical School and the Fenway Institute published a study showing that access to puberty blockers during adolescence is associated with lower odds of transgender young adults considering suicide. Despite fearmongering, these are safe medications that doctors have been using for decades for cisgender children who go through puberty too early. They also are reversible — if the medication is stopped, puberty will progress.
These doctors are not alone. Major medical oppose efforts to block this critical care.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) supports the use of current evidence-based clinical care with minors. AACAP strongly opposes any efforts — legal, legislative, and otherwise — to block access to these recognized interventions. Blocking access to timely care has been shown to increase youths’ risk for suicidal ideation and other negative mental health outcomes.
The American Medical Association views these bills as a dangerous legislative intrusion into the practice of medicine and has been working closely with state medical associations to vigorously oppose them. In letters to legislators, the AMA has emphasized that it is “imperative that transgender minors be given the opportunity to explore their gender identity under the safe and supportive care of a physician.”
These three groups signed onto a statement opposing these bills along with the American Counseling Association, American Public Health Association, American School Counselor Association, American School Health Association, Child Welfare League of America, Mental Health America, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers:
As organizations committed to serving the best interests of all youth, we are deeply alarmed at the torrent of bills introduced in state legislatures around the country this year that would directly harm transgender people, and particularly transgender youth. These appalling proposals would compromise the safety and well-being of the young people we all have the duty and obligation to support and protect. All of our nation’s children deserve equal protection and treatment when accessing health care, and when attending school. These anti-transgender bills promote discrimination and do harm to students, their families, and their communities.
Organizations representing over half-a-million medical experts asked Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto the anti-trans health bill, HB 1570.
Our organizations, which represent nearly 600,000 physicians and medical students, oppose any laws and regulations that discriminate against transgender and gender-diverse individuals or interfere in the confidential relationship between a patient and their physician. That confidentiality is critical to allow patients to trust physicians to properly counsel, diagnose and treat.
To protect the lives of vulnerable youth, the 50 physician members of the Arkansas Council on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the nearly 10,000 members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry write in strong opposition to HB1570, and we ask that you veto the legislation…Should HB1570 become law, the lives of some of our patients will be put at risk. Gender diverse youth, as well as adults, who identify as transgender have high rates of mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide in large part due to adverse experiences and stigma resulting from their gender identity.
As Cash, a trans man in Arkansas, said to lawmakers before they passed a bill banning care for trans youth:
Passing these bills won’t stop any trans youth from being trans. They will prevent some trans youth from growing up at all.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there is help available. Please contact:
Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
Trans Life Line: 877-565-8860