Doctors to Rally For Transgender Youth in Little Rock Saturday

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The Arkansas Chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics will be rallying in Little Rock Saturday to protest HB 1570, a bill to deny healthcare to transgender people under 18.

The legislature sent the bill to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) for his signature on Tuesday; he has 5 days to decide what to do. He can either sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

The “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE)” Act states that “a physician or other healthcare professional shall not provide gender transition procedures to any individual under 18 years of age” and also shall not refer anyone under 18 for such services.

Violating the law “is unprofessional conduct and is subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing entity or disciplinary review board,” the law states. It also bars insurers from offering coverage for transition-related procedures for anyone under 18, and says that insurers are not required to offer any transition-related coverage.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) opposes the “SAFE” bill,” says Gary Wheeler, MD, a retired Arkansas pediatrician and president of the board of directors at the AAP’s Arkansas chapter. Doctor Wheeler told Medpage that the chapter has several concerns about the measure.

“There are generic concerns that involve decisions about patient care which are typically historically and in every other way — given over to the parent, the child, and the physician,” Wheeler said in a phone interview. “We’ve not had direct interference in a specific category of youth care in the past — it’s been so intrusive. We’re very concerned about that.”

The second issue is conflicts [that] we would all have were we to follow guidelines, practices, and principles that we are bound to as physicians,” he continued. “As pediatricians, we believe we should take care of all children and provide them the best evidence-based care there is … This bill prohibits us from following our guidelines and values as pediatricians.”

In addition, “many people who voted to support this bill have been misled into thinking this is something that will actually help children,” said Wheeler. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t reflect what will really happen. We know that when bills are passed targeting transgender people, there is ultimately harm. They feel systematically bullied, and that just worsens their mental health and leads to significant psychiatric issues like suicide.”

Doctors Rally in Little Rock

How often are pediatricians seeing children with this issue? “There are estimates of anywhere around 0.5% to 2% of the population of children who entertain some concerns or dysphoria around transgenderness,” Wheeler said.

The Arkansas Chapter of The American Academy of Pediatrics with 400 members will rally at 12:00 none on April 3, 2021, at the State Capitol in hopes that Governor Hutchinson will hear their concerns and veto HR 1570.

Dr. Lee Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, with 67,000 primary care specialists said in a zoom call that she stands with the Arkansas Chapter and the ACLU to oppose legislation that would deny medically necessary health care services to transgender youth.

The only group to favor the legislation is The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), with 500 members. ACPeds is identified as an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to the SPLC, “The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) is a fringe anti-LGBTQ hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians to push anti-LGBTQ junk science, primarily via far-right conservative media and filing amicus briefs in cases related to gay adoption and marriage equality.​”

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender