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Gov. Asa Hutchinson On Vetoing A Bill Banning Gender-Affirming Care For Trans Youth


The Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, surprised many people yesterday when he vetoed a bill to restrict medical care for transgender minors. Today, the Arkansas Legislature overrode that veto with mostly Republican votes. The governor joins us now to talk about these latest developments.

Governor Hutchinson, welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ASA HUTCHINSON: Always good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: You called this bill a vast government overreach that allows lawmakers to get involved in decisions that should be between physicians and parents. So what is your reaction to the legislature overriding your veto?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it's disappointing but no surprise because it passed the original time with overwhelming support. And I wanted to express my own personal view that this is too extreme. It was too broad, and it did not grandfather in those young people who are currently under hormone treatment. And so this really puts a very vulnerable population in a more difficult position. It sends the wrong signal to them. But also in my veto, I wanted to say to my Republican friends and colleagues that we've got to rethink our engagement in every aspect of the cultural wars. The Republican Party that I grew up with believed in a restrained government that did not jump in the middle of every issue. And in this case, it is a very sensitive matter that involves parents, and it involves physicians. And we ought to yield to that decision-making, unless there's a compelling state reason. And I think this is too extreme for me to sign.

SHAPIRO: And so if you were to hear today from one of those transgender minors and their parents who had been getting hormone treatment and will have to stop under this law, like, what would you say to them?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I'm sorry, and that's exactly the reason I vetoed the bill is because we wanted - did not want to interrupt a treatment that the parents had agreed to, the patient agreed to and the physician recommended. And it's very important to note that we're not talking about surgery - that sex change surgery. We're not talking about that because I would sign that bill. That shouldn't be done for someone under 18. But when you're talking about...

SHAPIRO: And very rarely, as we should note, yeah.

HUTCHINSON: It's not done in Arkansas. It is not done, and so this is really interrupting the normal care that health professionals provide.

SHAPIRO: Speaking to the larger issue, you mentioned the culture wars, and there are so many pressing priorities in Arkansas and around the country right now, starting with the pandemic. And yet dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures are considering bills that focus on transgender young people. You have signed some of those bills into law yourself, limiting participation on sports teams, for example. So setting aside the specifics of any one piece of legislation, why do you think transgender minors have become a top priority for so many people in your party at this moment?

HUTCHINSON: Well, there's a sense that we're losing the traditional culture that we have and that there's undue influence in having young people reconsider their gender by birth, and so there's that sense. Now, just because that's a concern that many people have, you still have to weigh very carefully whether this is the right step to take. And I looked at it. I studied it. And as you pointed out, every one of these bills, you know, you have to measure on their own. I listen to experts. I make decisions. And this one was a step way too far, and I couldn't abide by it. Now, there's coming to my desk other bills as well. And, you know, I think we need to rethink as a party and as a nation. Let's give some more deference to the medical professionals.

SHAPIRO: That's Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.

Thank you for joining us today.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.