Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill Monday that would have prohibited children from receiving medical treatments that attempt to “transition” them to a different gender. These treatments include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, double mastectomies, vaginoplasties, and phalloplasties.
The Arkansas Legislature voted to override Hutchinson’s veto on Tuesday, making Arkansas the first state to ban these treatments for children. Many other states, including Alabama, Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, Montana, Indiana, and Utah, are set to pursue similar laws.
Hutchinson’s cowardly submission to radical gender ideology marks the second time a Republican governor has done so in the past month.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued a “style and form” veto on a bill on March 19 that would have protected women and girls from biological males who wish to participate on their sports teams. In effect, Noem caved to the threat of lawsuits and boycotts from liberals in power.
Noem backed down in part after she received a deluge of conservative attacks and signed two executive orders prohibiting males from playing in women’s sports on March 29.
Hutchinson and Noem’s capitulations show a trend of conservative politicians failing to stand up on “culture war” issues. But failing that culture war test will become increasingly lethal for conservative politicians as wokeism grows even more at odds with traditional values and asserts even more control over people’s lives. In other words, boldly opposing woke ideology is now essential for conservative politicians to maintain support.
The conservative backlash against Noem, which included a letter from dozens of conservative organizations including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, was so fierce that she evidently felt she had to back down or risk losing all hopes for a successful presidential run in 2024.
Boldly opposing woke ideology is now essential for conservative politicians to maintain support.
A recent poll by the Ethics and Public Policy Center showed that awareness of and opposition to woke ideology is extremely high among conservatives. Eighty-eight percent of Trump voters, the poll found, agree that “Democrats want all Americans to believe in a progressive and woke ideology,” and 87 percent of Trump voters believe that “Democrats want to eliminate the influence of traditional values in American life and culture.”
In addition, the poll pointed towards the possibility that conservatives might value some culture war issues more than economic issues. Trump voters surveyed in the poll believed on average that it is more important for a politician to support laws protecting religious liberty than cutting spending or lowering taxes.
And transgender issues have become a major political flashpoint nationally, as conservatives and liberals are divided over the Equality Act, which would make transgender men free to use female bathrooms and compete on women’s sports teams and would mandate that doctors perform sex-reassignment surgeries.
Hutchinson’s surrender to wokeism is far worse than Noem’s because of the sheer harm these treatments inflict on children.
Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones can result in side effects such as infertility, weight gain, Type II diabetes, hypertension, pulmonary embolism, sleep apnea, and decreased bone density. Moreover, these drugs are used off-label to treat gender dysphoria, as the FDA has not approved them for this purpose.
Just this month, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence — a part of the UK’s Department of Health, which provides the NHS with health guidance — found that the evidence for using puberty-blocking drugs to treat children with gender dysphoria is “very low.” In addition, the study found that the evidence of clinical effectiveness and safety for cross-sex hormones was of “very low” quality.
And no matter the medications or surgeries used to change a child’s bodily appearance, a child’s biological sex will not change. Hormones simply cannot change chromosomes. Children with gender dysphoria need counseling, not experimental treatments that affirm their delusions, change their body for the rest of their lives, and often render them infertile.
Hutchinson’s political future has become much bleaker because of his failure to oppose these pernicious treatments. He is not able to pursue reelection as governor because of term limits. But Hutchinson might find significant opposition from conservatives if he pursues other political positions in the future. There will be an election for senator in Arkansas next year, and Hutchinson has also entertained the idea of running for president.
Hutchinson appeared Tuesday night on Tucker Carlson Tonight to explain his refusal to sign the bill, which is called the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act. The governor argued that principles of limited government dictate that the government should not interfere with medical decisions made between parents and doctors.
“You have parents involved in very difficult decisions, you have physicians that are involved in these decisions,” he said, “and I go back to William Buckley, I go back to Ronald Reagan, to principles of our party, which believes in a limited role of government. Are we as a party abandoning a limited role of government?”
Hutchinson is suggesting that he has a very limited view of conservatism. For most of the GOP base, limited government is not the only or even the prime principle that Republicans and conservatives follow. Most conservatives care about other principles that affect transgender issues, such as fair opportunity (when it comes to sports), a moral order, and operating within a God-given reality.
Apparently the UK High Court is more conservative than Asa Hutchinson. In November 2020, the court ruled that children under 16 will need court approval in order to receive puberty blockers because it is “highly unlikely” that children under 13 are “competent to give consent” to these treatments and “doubtful” that 14 and 15-year-olds could “weigh the long-term risks and consequences.”
Hutchinson seemed to even buy into giving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children.
When Carlson asked Hutchinson to demonstrate that puberty-blocking drugs can improve the condition of children, Hutchinson said, “I would refer you to the American Academy of Pediatrics. I would refer you to the physicians that came out in opposition to this bill because they understood the risk to these young people and if you prohibit the medical care that this bill prohibits, then you’re going to endanger these young people even further. So I would cite all of those medical experts.”
Hutchinson’s veto of the SAFE Act and his inability to even understand the evil of inflicting these treatments on children will surely backfire. Proof of this is the Arkansas House and Senate Republicans’ override of Hutchinson’s veto; they weren’t swayed by liberal pressure as their spineless leadership was.
Conservatives today see enabling transgender treatments for children as a total abandonment of their principles, not their application. Leaders like Hutchinson and Noem should take note before they find themselves abandoned, too.