Here’s how media framed an Arkansas bill banning trans surgeries, procedures for minors
Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
- Corporate media outlets called gender transition surgeries for minors “gender affirming care” and “life saving care” as they discussed Arkansas’ new ban.
- Arkansas’ “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act” prohibits physicians from performing gender transition procedures, such as puberty blockers or surgeries on minors.
- The Washington Post said the SAFE Act restricts “access to medical treatments for transgender children,” calling the legislation “part of a growing effort by politicians to restrict the rights of transgender young people across America.”
Corporate media outlets described gender transition surgeries for minors as “gender affirming care” and “life saving care” as they discussed Arkansas’ new ban.
Arkansas’ “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,” otherwise known as the SAFE Act, prohibits physicians from performing gender transition procedures, such as puberty blockers or “top” and “bottom” surgeries on minors.
Transgender surgeries include vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, breast implants, and facial surgeries.
The SAFE Act passed the state’s Senate Monday, and Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed a similar bill last week banning biological men from participating in women’s sports, has until Sunday to decide whether to sign or veto the legislation.
While conservative outlets like the Daily Wire ran headlines such as “Arkansas Passes ‘Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act’ To Ban Trans Surgery, Puberty Blockers For Minors,” mainstream media outlets that covered the SAFE Act said the legislation attacks transgender youth, repeatedly using the phrase “gender-affirming care.”
“Arkansas passes bill to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth,” NBC News headlined its story.
Yahoo News similarly wrote that “Arkansas’s state Senate passed a bill that would ban access to gender-affirming care for transgender residents who are minors.”
The Washington Post said the SAFE Act restricts “access to medical treatments for transgender children,” calling the legislation “part of a growing effort by politicians to restrict the rights of transgender young people across America.”
Both Business Insider and the New York Daily News described the bill as one that prohibits “doctors from providing gender-affirming” care to minors.
Mother Jones headlined a story on the bill saying “Arkansas Just Banned Lifesaving Care for Trans Kids.”
The Guardian and The Hill wrote that Arkansas and South Dakota’s legislation targets transgender minors.
In a March 29 article that states as fact that it is “not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth” and that “there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth,” CNN reported that the SAFE Act makes an exception for persons with an unspecified chromosomal makeup and hormone production, often called intersex, as well as those who are struggling due to previous gender transition procedures.
“For young people experiencing gender dysphoria — a diagnosis that includes the significant distress that can result from identifying as a gender different than one’s sex assigned at birth — this would mean not being able to access puberty-blockers, a treatment option for transgender youth that is used to prevent the onset of puberty,” the CNN story said.
Puberty blocker treatment “sometimes gives young people temporary relief from the symptoms of gender dysphoria,” the CNN story said, citing the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Arkansas lawmakers who brought forward the SAFE Act cited findings from the American Psychiatric Association that only a small percentage of the American population “experiences distress at identifying with their biological sex,” noting that “for natal adult males, prevalence ranges from 0.005% to 0.014%, and for natal females, from 0.002% to 0.003%.”
Of the “small percentage of children who are gender nonconforming or experience distress at identifying with their biological sex,” the legislation reads, “studies consistently demonstrate that the majority come to identify with their biological sex in adolescence or adulthood, thereby rendering most physiological interventions unnecessary.”
A review conducted by Axios earlier this month found that GOP lawmakers have introduced over 60 pieces of legislation in at least 25 states that criminalize gender transition surgeries for children or prevent biological males from participating in women’s sports.
A March POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found that 53% of registered voters do not support biological males competing in women’s sports.
The poll was conducted from March 6-8 with a sample size of 1,990 registered voters and a 2% margin of error.