American law, including state law in Arkansas, has a long history of protecting children from themselves and others. The nation’s adults recognize that children are typically incapable of assessing long-term consequences of their actions, weighing risks and benefits, having fully formed identities and understanding of themselves, or even processing information needed to make critical decisions.

For example, in the state of Arkansas, children cannot purchase cigarettes, alcohol, or over-the-counter drugs like NyQuil. They cannot work in mines or get married. And, they cannot get a tattoo—unless over the age of 16 and with parental consent. Interestingly, a child cannot get a tattoo or piercing on their nipples or genitalia, even if over age 16 with parental consent.

Their inherent immaturity and vulnerability make children prone to being taken advantage of by others. This is why adults must safeguard their children’s best interests with legal protection.

Arkansas Republican state Rep. Robin Lundstrum and Republican state Sen. Alan Clark sponsored the Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act—known as the SAFE Act—as the next step forward in our long legal history of protecting children from themselves and others. The law prohibits anyone from performing sex-change interventions on minors.

This is essential, because the drugs used for these interventions are being used off-label and the procedures themselves suffer from a severe lack of long-term studies on the health consequences for children.

If a tattoo or piercing on nipples or genitalia is harmful to children and prohibited, then these sex-change interventions—which halt the natural development of breasts in female children, can include the removal of breasts and genitalia of healthy children, and can render male and female children sterile before the age 18 regardless of whether their genitalia or breast tissue are altered—are also harmful and should be prohibited. The SAFE Act will put this commonsense conclusion into action.

The law is on firm legal footing because the Arkansas government has a compelling interest in protecting the health and safety of the state’s children.

The SAFE Act was a bipartisan effort in Arkansas, and was so popular among legislators that it not only passed easily in the Legislature, but the Legislature also overrode Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the bill. It is the first law of its kind in the nation, and other states are considering similar legislation.

For example, a bill has been introduced in South Carolina, the South Carolina Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which is co-sponsored by Democrat, state Rep. Cezar McKnight.

Only when the practice of medicine becomes politicized does anyone advocate for children to be able to make drastic and life-altering changes to their bodies before they reach adulthood.

America’s legal history, American families, and a recent survey of American adults by The Heritage Foundation all agree that caution should be exercised when it comes to children.

In recent years, parents have grown wary of giving their children meat or dairy products filled with artificial hormones. Yet, these same parents are pressured to accept that children should receive unnatural levels of hormones for the politically popular cause of so-called gender affirmation.

These protocols are so extreme that females (who identify as men) are instructed to reach shocking levels of testosterone—400-700 nanograms per deciliter of blood—despite the fact that normal female testosterone levels are supposed to be between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter. Only the politicization of medicine can explain this dangerous phenomenon.

Common objections to legislation like the SAFE Act include: “But what about the expertise of the medical community?” This objection flows from the support for sex-change interventions by many of the major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. But what happens when these medical organizations are driven more by politics than by medicine?

We know that most children who are struggling to accept their biological sex will eventually come to reconcile with it—if they aren’t pushed to transition. Still, leading medical organizations call for struggling children to have the option to pursue “treatment” that includes inducing potential sterility and, down the road, amputating healthy body parts.

The medical community’s “standards of care” in this area have become more political than medical, and we have no choice but to advocate for ourselves and our children. And that may even mean asking our own political representatives to stand against politicized medicine with us, which is what happened with Arkansas’ SAFE Act.

Another common objection to laws like Arkansas’ new SAFE Act is: “But if transgender-identifying teens aren’t given access to sex-change interventions, they are at far higher risk of committing suicide.” This is a dire statement that would send chills down the spine of any loving parent. But what is the truth?

The truth is that transition interventions do not bring about the promised mental health improvement for transgender-identifying individuals, and in many cases, suicide rates are higher among those who undergo sex-reassignment surgeries.

If politicized medicine and a lack of positive results weren’t enough to throw shade on experimental and extreme transgender interventions for children, the fact that it’s a permanent “solution” should be.

LGBT activist groups frequently state that “sexuality and gender identity do not have to be set in stone and can change at any time.” If a child’s “gender identity” really can “change at any time,” why on earth would any loving parent or health professional sign off on life-altering interventions that cannotbe undone or changed at any time?

The SAFE Act will keep the promise to Arkansas’ children that their bodies will be protected from politicized and drastic physical interventions. They will have the chance to grow up and make adult decisions—but in the meantime, the law lets kids be kids.

Bravo to Arkansas and especially to Lundstrum, who is an endorser of the Promise to America’s Children, a platform uniting parents, citizens, and policymakers around protecting children’s minds, bodies, and relationships with their parents.

May many more states follow your boldness. Children’s lives depend upon it.

The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation. 

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