Arizona lawmakers pass bill attacking gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth

Two people hold placards in support of trans people

Republicans in Arizona have passed a bill to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for trans youth in the state. 

The state’s Republican-led House approved Senate Bill 1138 (SB 1138) on Thursday (24 March) by a 31-26 vote. The bill passed through the Arizona GOP-controlled Senate with a 16-12 vote in February

The proposed legislation now heads to governor ​​Doug Ducey’s desk alongside an anti-trans sports ban, which was also passed on Thursday. The Republican governor has not signalled whether he would veto or sign the bills.

SB 1138 originally would have banned a wide range of gender-affirming medical care including puberty blockers and hormone treatments for trans youth. 

But it was scaled back to restrict only “irreversible” gender-affirming surgeries on any individual who is under the age of 18. The bill reportedly does make an exception for young intersex people in Arizona, according to CNN

Democrat representative Melody Hernandez said during the hearing that she was “so sad to see members voting for this legislation”, especially after the “courageous” testimony of a young trans girl. 

Hernandez said she was “blown away” by Skyler Morrison’s “courage” as the young girl testified against an anti-trans sports ban also considered by the state’s House. 

She described how Morrison was “so excited” to be able to speak with Republican lawmakers and hopefully be able to “change a mind”.

“This young woman knows exactly who she is, and she’s a woman,” Hernandez told legislators. “She’s going to grow up to be a wonderful young woman who continues to exhibit courage in all aspects of her life.”

Hernandez shared that she thinks about the “gravity of the decisions that we’re making” on the lives of people in Arizona. She also thanked Morrison for “giving all of us the courage to keep fighting for you” and “against this horrible, offensive legislation”. 

The proposed legislation has also faced widespread condemnation from LGBT+ rights advocates, who also called on Ducey to veto the reviled bill. 

Bridget Sharpe, Arizona state director for the Human Rights Campaign, said it is “simply not the job of legislators to make healthcare decisions” for trans youth and their families. 

“We have been coordinating closely with medical professionals, athletic administrators, and, most importantly, the children and their families who will be directly impacted by this legislation and all are confused, hurt, and scared as to why their legislators have decided to single them out when their lives are already extremely difficult,” Sharpe said. 

Sharpe added that Arizonans deserve “better than legislators” who are trying to “bully transgender youth with politically motivated bills for the sake of discrimination itself”. 

ACLU of Arizona policy director Darrell Hill said Arizona has now “unfortunately joined the long list of states that have made bullying and discriminating” against trans kids a “priority this legislative session”. 

“These unabated attacks on trans kids attempt to solve problems that do not exist and singles out people for simply being transgender,” Hill said. 

Carla Thomas, a mother of trans daughter who lives in Arizona, told Xtra that she is “still in shock that this is happening”.

She explained that she is “in denial” that Arizonans “have to depend” on Ducey to “veto these vicious, dehumanising, discriminatory bills”, which she said is “invading my parental rights and my child’s privacy”.

“Transgender children have a right to feel protected in their own homes, schools and doctor’s offices,” Thomas added.

If Ducey signs SB 1138 into law, Arizona would be the latest state to enact legislation restricting the ability for trans youth to access gender-affirming medical care. 

Last year, Republicans in Arkansas overrode a veto from governor Asa Hutchinson to enact a ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans minors. Tennessee passed a similar ban a little over a month later. 

However, Republican lawmakers in Idaho killed a similar bill earlier this month and argued the legislation would allow the “government to interfere in parents’ medical decision-making authority for their children”. 

The Idaho Senate Republicans believed the “best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents” with the advice from their physicians. The GOP leaders also cited the bill ran counter to current medical advice by the Idaho Medical Association (IMA). 

The Idaho Senate Republicans’ statement said the bill would have outlawed gender-affirming surgery for trans minors, and the IMA had confirmed this is “already outside the generally accepted standard of care and is not being done by physicians in Idaho”.