Bill advances to limit trans youth health care in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to advance a bill that would ban gender-confirming health care for transgender minors.

Proponents of the bill say it would defend trans children from life-altering medical procedures they cannot fully consent to. Opponents say it would harm trans youth.

The bill passed mostly along party lines, with Republican Rep. Mallerie Stromswold, a recent high school graduate, joining all committee Democrats in opposing the measure.

The bill was voted up by the committee one day after they passed a measure that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in sports according to the gender with which they identify.

Both bills head to the Republican-controlled House floor for votes next week.

Both are opposed by a wide coalition of health care groups, businesses and human rights advocates in the states. The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana has promised to sue the state if the bills are passed into law.

The measure would prohibit medical providers from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment and surgery. Under an amendment passed by the committee Friday, health care providers would still be allowed to provide treatment for certain intersex conditions. Intersex refers to people with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for male or female bodies.

The bill would also ban medical providers from referring trans children to other providers for gender-confirming medical care. Health care providers who violate this requirement could be disciplined by licensing bodies, and the state’s attorney general would be able to enforce compliance.

Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, defended the ban on referrals after committee Democrats said it would violate doctors’ rights.

“If someone comes in and says ‘I want physician-assisted suicide’ in Montana you can’t refer that to someone that will kill you. So there’s plenty of things that doctors can’t refer,” Skees said.

The vote comes days after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, causing committee Democrats to raise concerns that the state's federal education funding could be withheld if the bills are signed into law.