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Bills Targeting Transgender Youths Introduced in MT

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HB 113 would fine Montana doctors up to $50,000 for offering gender-affirming health care to minors. (nito/Adobe Stock)
HB 113 would fine Montana doctors up to $50,000 for offering gender-affirming health care to minors. (nito/Adobe Stock)
January 14, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Two bills restricting transgender youths are on the docket for Montana lawmakers this year.

House Bill 112 would ban transgender athletes in public schools from participating in sports consistent with their gender.

House Bill 113 would prohibit gender-affirming health care for minors, potentially fining doctors up to $50,000 dollars for violating the statute.

SJ Howell, executive director of Montana Women Vote, said the bills would harm young people, and legislators should be focusing on COVID-19.

"We think it's really, frankly, unconscionable that lawmakers are considering supporting this type of legislation, especially at a time like this," Howell contended.

Hearings for both bills were canceled this week and have not yet been rescheduled, according to the Montana Legislature website.

Sponsor of the bills, Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, did not respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with Montana Free Press, Fuller said he opposes treatment that could have lasting effects on young people's bodies.

All 130 members of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose HB 113.

Dr. Lauren Wilson, vice president of the Montana chapter, believes the bill is based in fear, not fact, and said knowing more about care for trans youth could reduce some of the stigma.

For starters, therapy before puberty doesn't involve medication, and instead focuses on letting a child express themselves how they choose.

"At the onset of puberty, that comes a time for re-evaluation with the patient and the family and decision-making together about maybe starting a puberty-suppressing medication called a blocker, which is completely reversible, but allows the patient and the family time to kind of assess where they are," Wilson explained.

Wilson noted trans youth have high rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts because of the feeling that they're not in the right body. But she noted those rates go down if young people are affirmed, especially from an early age.

"So that's good news," Wilson remarked. "If we're allowed to provide appropriate care and the family is supportive of the patient, then sometimes there's really great outcomes for everyone."

A measure similar to the ban on trans athletes in school sports passed the Idaho Legislature last year, but has been blocked by a federal court.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT