Arkansas legislature overrides veto of transgender surgery bill. Hutchinson gets held to account

As we discussed yesterday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson inexplicably vetoed a bill on Monday that would have banned doctors from prescribing puberty-blocking drugs or cross-sex hormones to children for the purpose of treating gender dysphoria. The bill would also make it illegal for doctors to perform castrations or other genital mutilations on children for the same purposes. At the time, Hutchinson freely admitted that the state legislature likely had enough votes to override his veto, but he went ahead with it anyway. His own prediction came true later the same day, as the legislature indeed canceled his veto, setting up the law to go into effect this summer. Court challenges are expected of course, so this process may take a while to play out.

Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, overriding Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto the day before.

The law prohibits doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy, and prevents them from referring minors to other providers.

Major medical organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics opposed the bill, and transgender advocates say it could have severe negative effects on trans youth in the state.

I’m not going to rehash all of my reasons for supporting this new law and others like it currently being drafted around the country. You can go back to my article from yesterday (linked above) if you missed it. What I find myself more interested in is the continuing mystery as to why Hutchinson vetoed the bill in the first place. Tucker Carlson took him to task about it during an interview last night, hitting all the right notes. Hutchinson stuck to most of the same talking points he used in his initial announcement of the veto but fleshed them out a bit more. You can watch the interview on the Fox News YouTube channel.

ā€œIā€™m a person of faith, but at the same time, I’m a person of limited role of government. I sign pro-life bills, I signed many bills that would be looked at as very conservative, but this is one that crosses the line. There’s no need for it,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson tried to argue with Tucker over the contents of the bill, saying that if the bill only addressed chemical castration (puberty blockers), “I would have signed the bill.” He went on to expand that definition, saying that if the bill were only about “procedures… sex reassignment surgery, I would have signed that bill.” But what else of any significance is left in the bill aside from those procedures? He kept describing the bill as being “overly broad” and coming between a doctor and a patient. But that’s precisely the line that Democrats use when arguing against laws limiting or banning abortions. And isn’t a prohibition against surgical procedures or the prescription of drugs also “coming between a doctor and their patient?” (The things he claims he would have been fine signing off on.)

Tucker really hounded the Governor on this, returning to questions about the lack of research data on the long-term effects of these procedures on children. But as much as Hutchinson tried to claim that he “would have signed” a bill that only prohibited the surgeries or drugs, he then went on to give a textbook liberal explanation of why it’s “important” for parents and children to have these options. Honestly, my head was spinning by the time the interview was over and Tucker Carlson was obviously disgusted by the time he signed off.

Is it possible that Hutchinson is secretly in favor of these irreversible medical procedures being performed on children who are too young to provide informed consent, but he’s trying to mask that position by hiding behind the small-government conservative angle? If that’s not it, then it just seems like there has to be a political angle to this. The Governor is term-limited at this point, so he doesn’t have to worry about winning another statewide election when his term is up next year. Could he be considering a jump to Congress or even a White House bid? He might feel that some moderate positions would help him more with independents if that were the case. But even if that’s so, he’s certainly picked an odd hill to die on here.