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MT Lawmakers Focus on Restricting Trans, Reproductive Rights

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Montana and other state legislatures have introduced a record number of bills restricting rights for trans people. (Tracy/Flickr)
Montana and other state legislatures have introduced a record number of bills restricting rights for trans people. (Tracy/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 30, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Conservative social issues are a top priority in Montana's legislative session this year, but opponents are pushing back.

A slate of measures singling out trans Montanans and restricting reproductive rights are nearing the governor's desk.

Izzy Milch, issue advocacy organizer at Forward Montana, said many legislators campaigned on bringing jobs to the state and restoring the economy, but that hasn't shown up as prominently on the legislative agenda.

They emphasized advocates are making plans for what to do if bills targeting the trans community pass.

"A huge part of that is just community support and making sure that trans people in Montana know that even if legislators aren't looking out for them, their communities are," Milch explained. "And kind of building those networks to make sure that people are still able to access the care they need and the community they need."

Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, has introduced two of the bills, one banning trans girls from high school sports and the other prohibiting gender-affirming health care for trans youth.

In an interview with Public News Service, Fuller said the bills do not discriminate against trans people and are not diverting attention from other issues. Nationwide, states have seen the most legislation targeting trans people ever introduced.

More than a half-dozen bills restricting reproductive rights have also been introduced, including a bill that would redefine "personhood" as beginning at conception, effectively banning abortions.

Laura Terrill, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Montana, said many of these bills have been introduced in past sessions but the sheer volume this year is new.

She noted lawmakers have introduced bills restricting reproductive health care and sexual education in schools.

"You can't simultaneously take away preventive measures like access to good, quality health care and education, and then also outlaw services because the need for abortion isn't going to go away," Terrill argued. "It's just going to become more dangerous."

Sponsor of the so-called personhood bill, Rep. Caleb Hinkle, R-Belgrade, did not respond to a request for comment.

Supporters of abortion restrictions are hoping to challenge the Roe v. Wade decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized the services.

Terrill added it's disheartening, but advocates did expect lawmakers to try to advance these measures this session.

"We will keep uplifting those that are most impacted by these harmful policies, and I believe that eventually those will have an impact," Terrill concluded.

Disclosure: Forward Montana contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Environment, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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