HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s Republican governor indicated Monday he would sign a bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare care for transgender minors, but he recommended alterations to make it clear that public funds could not be applied to spend for surgery or hormone treatment options for youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
“I share your profound commitment to defend Montana young children from invasive healthcare treatment options that can permanently alter their wholesome, building bodies,” Gov. Greg Gianforte wrote in a letter to the legislative leaders supplying his amendments.
Gianforte stated he had met with transgender youth and adults, understands that their struggles are actual and stated his “heart goes out to them.” On the other hand, he wrote, treatment options with hormones or surgery must wait till they are adults, arguing the science about puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical procedures “is unsettled and continues to evolve.”
Opponents of the bill argue hormone treatment options, and in some circumstances, surgery, are proof-primarily based care and can be life-saving for an individual with gender dysphoria — the clinically important distress or impairment brought on by feeling that one’s gender identity does not match one’s biological sex.
Opponents also noted that treatment options such as puberty-blockers and breast-reduction surgery would nonetheless be legal for minors who are not suffering from gender dysphoria, a distinction they argue is unconstitutional.
Gianforte’s proposed amendments, which are supported by Republican bill sponsor Sen. John Fuller, would also add a “necessarily binary” definition of male and female to the legislation.
His proposed amendments would make it clear that Medicaid or the state Children’s Wellness Insurance coverage Strategy would not cover puberty-blockers, cross-sex hormones or surgical procedures. His letter stated the bill, as passed, wasn’t clear that it banned coverage for hormonal therapy.
The bill goes back to the Legislature for its consideration of the proposed amendments. The bill passed on a largely celebration-line vote in the Republican controlled Legislature.
Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Montana have stated they will take legal action if the bill becomes law.
The legislation does not prohibit noninvasive care to treat gender dysphoria, such as social affirmation or psychotherapy, Gianforte noted in his letter to Senate President Jason Ellsworth and Home Speaker Matt Regier.
At least 13 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care, and 3 states have banned or restricted such care through regulations or administrative orders. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of the laws in Alabama and Arkansas. Missouri’s lawyer basic issued an emergency ban final week that limits treatment options for adults.