Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Friday signed a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors, marking the latest effort by a Republican-led state to wrest control of certain health care decisions away from licensed medical professionals.
The move sparked outcry from groups like the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, whose president, Dr. Lauren Wilson, said that the legislation is “based in false information.”
“This bill is an overly broad blanket ban that takes decisions that should be made by families and physicians and puts them in the hands of politicians,” the state chapter said earlier this month, as the measure moved through Montana’s Legislature.
Wilson and others have pledged to fight the new law, which fits into a broader strategy by Republican officials to curtail bodily autonomy.
Debate over the bill prompted Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who is transgender, to tell her fellow lawmakers last week that “I hope ... you see the blood on your hands.” Research indicates that suicidal ideation is particularly high in transgender youth experiencing social stigma.
Republicans then censured Zephyr for her comments and barred her from the state House floor for the remainder of the legislative session. In a statement that also intentionally misgendered her, the Montana Freedom Caucus said that Zephyr had cast aside a “commitment to civil discourse.”
Montana is now one of at least 15 states that have laws banning or severely restricting gender-affirming care for minors, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
The Montana measure is set to go into effect Oct. 1, barring transgender youth from receiving puberty blockers, hormone treatments and surgical interventions. Medical professionals who disregard the law can have their medical licenses revoked for at least one year, and they can be sued in the 25 years after a procedure for any psychological or physical harm to patients.
The law also restricts public funds and employees from being “directly or indirectly” used for gender-affirming treatments.
The law is expected to face immediate challenges.
“I know that this is an unconstitutional bill. It is as cruel as it is unconstitutional. And it will go down in the courts,” Zephyr said after Gianforte signed the legislation, per the AP.
“There’s an understandable inclination towards despair in these moments, but know that we are going to win,” she added.
If you or someone you know needs help, dial 988 or call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also get support via text by visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.