Iowa and Arkansas are the latest red states to pass bills cracking down on gender-affirming care for minors. Both bills are expected to become law.
The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would prohibit doctors from giving puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries to people under age 18. Five Republican lawmakers broke ranks to vote against the bill with Democrats. The measure had passed the Senate along party lines the night before. It now moves to Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, who is expected to sign it into law.
In Arkansas, the House passed a medical malpractice bill that would make it easier for people to sue doctors who give gender-affirming care to minors. Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said she supports the measure.
The bills are part of a much larger wave of state-level legislation targeting LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people. Also in Iowa this week, the Senate passed a bill that would prohibit transgender kids from using the school bathroom that does not match their sex at birth; and the state House passed a bill Wednesday that bans teaching kids about gender identity or sexual orientation until sixth grade.
The most common argument from lawmakers who support such bills is that they are looking out for the best interests of children. “Children should not be pushed to receive experimental medical treatments that can leave them permanently sterile and physically marred for life,” Iowa Senator Jeff Edler said when debating the gender-affirming care bill, citing false information.
“The governor has said that she supports bills that protect our kids and will support legislation like this that does just that,” a spokeswoman for Sanders told the Associated Press. “Only in the far-left’s woke vision of America is it not appropriate to protect children.”
Both states have also introduced legislation easing child labor protection laws. On Tuesday, Sanders signed a law rolling back her state’s only oversight mechanism for child labor. In Iowa, Republicans unveiled a bill in February that would allow teenagers to work in previously prohibited jobs, such as in slaughterhouses or meatpacking plants, or operating heavy machinery.
While that proposed law could endanger teenagers, gender-affirming care can be lifesaving for LGBTQ minors. A study published in January in the New England Journal of Medicine found that trans and nonbinary teens who receive gender-affirming care have significantly less depression and anxiety than before treatment.
The Human Rights Campaign and ACLU urged the states’ governors not to sign the bills. Iowa’s “heartless legislation puts craven politics ahead of the health and safety of young people, and should strike fear in the hearts of parents” throughout the state, said Cathryn Oakley, the HRC’s state legislative director.
The ACLU also slammed the Arkansas state legislature. “By choosing to ignore the voices of those who are most directly impacted by this legislation, Arkansas politicians are sending a clear message that they value political posturing over the health and wellbeing of their constituents,” the group said.