Montana lawmakers hear testimony on a bill to restrict transgender care options
More than 100 people testified during a marathon hearing Friday on a policy to restrict health care for transgender youth. The measure was revived in the Montana Legislature after failing to pass two years ago.
Jessica Van Garderen, a Belgrade mom, told a committee of lawmakers considering Senate Bill 99 that when she sought health care for her teen daughter experiencing gender dysphoria, she was advised by multiple providers that hormone blockers to pause puberty were the best course of action.
She says she noticed a drastic, positive change in her daughter after she started treatment.
“If you pass this bill, you will be taking away the medication that is allowing her to live," she said. "Medication prescribed by her doctor to treat her medical condition.
"Gender dysphoria is real and it is excruciating."
Senate Bill 99 would criminalize that kind of treatment and ban providers who give gender-affirming care, like hormone therapy, to transgender youth experiencing gender dysphoria.
Sen. John Fuller of Kalispell sponsored the bill and says it aims to protect children from life-altering medical treatments.
“Children live under the guardianship of adults precisely because they lack the maturity, prudence and experience to make safe, responsible decisions for themselves,” he said.
Fuller’s bill would also bar public funds from going to facilities that offer gender-affirming care and public employees from publicly affirming a child’s transition.
About 45 people spoke in support of the bill, including several national organizations that advocate for restricting transgender rights and people who testified that they regret transitioning. Some say that they worry the treatment for gender dysphoria is too experimental.
Twice as many people spoke in opposition to the bill, including transgender Montanans, several physicians, psychiatrists, attorneys and representatives of professional medical organizations. Medical experts say there are clear best practices that guide gender-affirming care, and the most commonly used treatment is reversible and not permanent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet taken action on the bill.
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