Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended his decision to veto legislation that would have made his state the first to ban gender-confirming treatments or surgery for transgender youth in a fiery exchange with Fox News host Tucker Carlson Tuesday.
“The Tucker Carlson Tonight” host explained to viewers that the bill nearly passed with Hutchinson’s support until the governor rejected the legislation that would have prohibited doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.
Hutchinson accused Carlson of misrepresenting the bill, explaining: “If this had been a bill that simply prohibited chemical castration, I would have signed the bill.”
Hutchinson added that he would have supported legislation that restricted only gender-confirming surgery, which currently is not performed on minors in the state.
Instead, he said, the bill presented to him was “was overbroad, it was extreme. It went far beyond what you just said.
“This is the first law in the nation that invokes the state between medical decisions, parents who consent to that and the decision of the patient. And so, this goes way too far. And in fact, it doesn’t even have a grandfather clause that those young people that are under hormonal treatment,” he argued.
Hutchinson’s veto followed pleas from pediatricians, social workers and the parents of transgender youth who said the measure would harm a community already at risk for depression and suicide. Hutchinson said he met with doctors and transgender people as he considered whether to sign the measure.
“With respect,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t sound like you have studied it very deeply. I mean, this is an emerging field. There’s not a lot of research. But the research that exists suggests the depression and the urge to self-harm and suicide is a component, it’s a side effect of taking these hormones.”
The host cited a U.K. study which reportedly suggested that an overwhelming majority of children who were administered puberty-blocking hormones felt the urge to harm themselves.
“Why is that responsible medicine, to do that to children? Why would you support something like that?” he asked.
Hutchinson admitted that there are “a lot of unknowns here,” but maintained that he “studied this bill and in contrast to what you just said, I spent a lot of time reviewing cases, meeting with people, listening to the experts as well as to faith leaders as well.”
The governor added that while he considers himself “a person of faith,” he is believes in a limited role of government.
“I signed pro-life bills. I sign many bills that would be looked at as very conservative. But this is one that crosses the line. There is no need for it,” he argued.
Carlson asked Hutchinson to provide data to support his decision, arguing that “there is not a single study that I’m aware of that shows an improvement in the mental health of children who take puberty blockers who are chemically castrated, and you couldn’t cite one.
“You are not familiar,” the host continued. “You were told by doctors that it’s a good idea and you went with it.”
When Carlson questioned whether Hutchinson was in contact with corporate interests in the state of Arkansas about the bill, the governor replied forcefully, “I answered that question and I said, no, I have not. Do you have another question”
Earlier Tuesday, the Arkansas legislature voted overwhelmingly to override Hutchinson’s veto.