Jen Psaki criticizes ‘extreme and harmful’ laws targeting trans people and abortion in Arizona and Oklahoma

White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized four bills signed into law in Arizona and Oklahoma this week targeting transgender young people and restricting abortion care, among dozens of bills filed by Republican legislators this year aimed at LGBT+ Americans and abortion rights.

The Republican governors of both states signed bills into law banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also approved a measure banning gender-affirming surgeries for people under 18 years old and a law banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, a restriction at the center of a US Supreme Court case reviewing a similar Mississippi law.

Ms Psaki called the measures “extreme and harmful”.

“These laws are unacceptable and we won’t stop fighting for justice and equality,” she said on Twitter.

Oklahoma legislators also are mulling a bill to ban abortions in nearly all instances, establishing what could become the most restrictive anti-abortion measure in the country if singed into law.

The bill mirrors a Texas measure that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, but goes further by barring physicians from performing or inducing an abortion at any point in the pregnancy unless it is “to save the life” of the pregnant person.

The bill would also allow private citizens to pursue civil actions, with up to $10,000 in damages, against anyone who performs or “aids and abets in the provision of such an abortion,” echoing similar provisions in Texas and Idaho that opponents argue will allow people to profit from “bounties” targeting women seeking medical care.

Republican officials across the US, emboldened by the Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling in a case that could upend decades-long precedent established by the landmark rulings in Roe v. Wadehave filed dozens of bills or have approved laws in place that could immediately or quickly ban abortion if precedent is overturned.

“In Arizona, we know there is immeasurable value in every life – including preborn life,” Governor Ducey said in a statement. “I believe it is each state’s responsibility to protect them.”

Florida and Kentucky state legislatures also have approved bans on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Those measures await governors’ signatures.

Arizona legislation banning gender-affirming surgeries will potentially interrupt life-saving care and “take away options from trans youth and their families, allowing legislators to impact decisions that should only be made with the support of medical professionals,” according to the ACLU of Arizona .

The organization and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have vowed to sue the state to block the law.

Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said Arizona officials who have approved the law are “directly responsible for the harm they cause transgender youth by subjecting them to continual intrusive attacks on their dignity and humanity.”

At least 29 similar measures across the US look to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for transgender young people, or criminalize such healthcare by charging parents and health providers with child abuse for approving it, according to legislative trackers from the ACLU and Freedom For All Americans .

More than 50 bills seek to ban transgender athletes from school sports.

In 2021, nine states banned transgender athletes from participating in sports that match their gender.

At least four similar bans were signed into law or passed through state legislatures in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah in March alone.

In a signing ceremony on 30 March surrounded by children holding signs reading “save women’s sports,” Governor Stitt said Oklahoma’s law is “just common sense.”

“When it comes to sports and athletics, girls should compete against girls. Boys should compete against boys,” he said. “That’s all this bill says.”

Nicole McAfee, executive director of advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma, said that “Oklahoma kids are not a political bargaining chip” as LGBT+ advocates called on the governor to reject legislation on Tuesday before he signed the bill into law the following morning.

“The only emergency here is [there are] transgender, two-spirt and gender non-conforming children here in Oklahoma are trying their hardest to survive in conditions that are so unwelcoming they are not sure they can live another day of it,” they said.

In response to Ms Psaki, Governor Stitt’s communications director Carly Atchison “this the same administration who can’t define what a ‘woman’ is, but I bet [she] pretends to be pro-women/a feminist when it’s politically convenient for her and her boss.”

“Apparently that doesn’t include girls in sports. Sad,” she wrote on Twitter.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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