- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 24, 2021

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana House on Wednesday endorsed a bill that would limit gender affirming health care for transgender youth, a limit that doctors say already exists in best practices.

The bill by Republican Rep. John Fuller of Whitefish, which would prohibit surgical procedures for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors, was endorsed 59-40 on second reading. It faces a third-reading vote before it would move to the Senate.

The bill also says physicians would be guilty of unprofessional conduct if they refer transgender youth to another provider for gender transition procedures.

“Protecting children from surgical procedures that are purely cosmetic and irreversible is necessary and proper,” Fuller has said.

An earlier bill by Fuller, which would also have prohibited the blocking of puberty hormones as treatment for gender dysphoria, died 51-49 on third reading. Fuller’s motion to reconsider that bill failed, but the House Rules Committee decided last week that Fuller could introduce a bill focusing on surgical procedures.

Pediatrician Lauren Wilson of Missoula said guidelines already recommend against performing genital surgery to treat gender dysphoria for patients under 18 years of age, and to her knowledge it has not happened in Montana.

Erin Grantham, head of pediatric urology at Billings Clinic told lawmakers: “I’m asking you to allow trained physicians and other medical providers to continue to make good medical decisions with family members and not work against a boogeyman that doesn’t exist in Montana.”

“This bill is not at all about protecting kids, but instead is driven by an invidious purpose and bare desire to harm transgender people, a historically marginalized group who’ve been particularly targeted across the country,” Laurel Hesse with the ACLU of Montana told the committee before it voted to advance the bill to the House floor.

The bill is designed to protect children, Fuller said, adding: “I deeply resent the implication that I am doing so out of such motives.”

Fuller is also sponsoring a bill to prevent transgender females from participating in girl’s and women’s sports on public school athletic teams. The bill passed the House 61-38 and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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