Arkansas lawmakers on Monday passed first of its kind legislation that would prevent doctors from offering puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or gender-transition surgery to minors.
Under the measure, any healthcare professional who offers such services would be in danger of losing their medical license and open to lawsuits from patients who later come to regret their procedures.
Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has not yet revealed whether he will sign the bill into law.
“The governor will review the bill more closely, listen to the debate, study it and make a decision on the legislation,” spokesperson Katie Beck told Reuters.
If enacted, Arkansas could become the first state in the country to restrict the procedures, though sixteen other states are considering similar bills.
In Tennessee, state Representative John Ragan has sponsored a bill that would prohibit most gender transition treatment for minors unless it has the consent of three physicians.
“They’re not mature enough to make those kinds of decisions,” Ragan said.
Those who back the legislation say they aim to protect children from irreversible procedures they could later regret.
Though opponents argue the legislation is unconstitutional, goes against scientific evidence and relies on stereotypes.
“As a trans person, as a parent, I can’t stress enough how devastating the consequences would be,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union.
The American College of Pediatricians, which represents 600 physicians and healthcare professionals, has endorsed the legislation, saying affirming gender dysphoria in young people too early will urge them to transition.
Advocates for the bans also argue that transgender activists minimize the side effects and downplay cases of transgender people who regret their transition.
The passage of the measure comes days after the governor signed another bill on Friday which would restrict women’s sports to biologically female athletes.