Governor Asa Hutchinson speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Tucker Carlson interrogated Arkansas Republican governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday night over his decision to veto a bill banning gender-transition surgery for minors in his state.

The Fox News host opened the interview with a direct challenge: “I think of you as a conservative. Here you have come out publicly as pro-choice on the question of chemical castration of children. What changed?”

Hutchinson, whose veto was overridden by the Arkansas General Assembly on Tuesday, attempted to argue that the bill — the first of its kind to be passed in the country — is “over broad” and “extreme” in scope and does nothing to address the “maybe less than 200 kids in Arkansas that are currently on hormone treatment.” He added that “if this had been a bill that simply prohibited ‘chemical castration,’ I would have signed the bill.”

The Arkansas governor, who is barred by term limits from seeking reelection in 2022, centered his argument around the state interfering in private medical decisions.

“Let me emphasize, Tucker. You are a conservative, you have a great background in that. Where are we getting back to the limited role of government, that we don’t have to invoke ourselves in every societal position out there. Let’s limit the role of government, let’s let parents and doctors make decisions,” Hutchinson said.

Carlson, who also grilled South Dakota governor Kristi Noem over her decision to veto a similar bill last month, pushed back. “Then why don’t we allow 18-year-olds to drink beer in Arkansas? Why don’t we allow them to get tattoos? Why don’t we allow 15-year-olds to get married?”

“You vetoed a bill that would’ve protected children — not adults, children, to whom a different standard applies — from a life-altering, permanent procedure,” he continued. “ . . . They’re not old enough to have sex but they’re old enough to be chemically castrated? How does that work exactly?”

Hutchinson responded by explaining that his “reasoned” rationale was an attempt “to broaden the party” and “to get back to the principles.”

“Whether it’s beer for minors, these are all issues that you have to address [in] the legislature, you make judgement calls on it,” he argued. “But we also try to restrain ourselves, as conservatives, so that we don’t have to be involved in every issue. And if you want to broaden the party, if you want to get back to the principles, then let’s at least think through — in a reasoned way — as to whether this is the right bill to interfere with parents and doctors’ decisions on a health care matter.”

Carlson also questioned Hutchinson on whether he had spoken to any corporate interests in Arkansas that affected his decision to veto the bill, which also blocks doctors from administering puberty-blocking hormones to children. Hutchinson bristled at the suggestion and denied that any such considerations entered into the decision.

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