The Montana Legislature, in the midst of a pandemic and state budgetary concerns, has decided to fast-track a problematic and discriminatory bill that I, as a Missoula pediatrician, am extremely concerned about.
House Bill 113 would fine medical providers up to $50,000 for providing recommended medical care to transgender youth in Montana. The House will take this bill up next week in committee.
Treating transgender youth is not medically “fringe.” Guidelines for appropriate treatment exist that have been carefully developed and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the American College of Physicians, and the American Psychological Association.
These medical guidelines provide for the evaluation of children with gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria. Sometimes, after medical and psychological evaluation, treatment is indicated. Treatment of children to delay puberty is reversible and allows the child and family sufficient time, with the ongoing medical supervision of their doctor, to come to decisions on gender identity. They can then elect further therapy to affirm that choice.
One-point-eight percent of youth identify as transgender, and a further 1.6% are questioning or nonconforming. This is not an easy path for many children and teenagers. Around half consider suicide, and a third attempt it. We know through research on the subject that if youth are affirmed in their gender identity by socially transitioning (just using their chosen name and gender pronouns) that the rate of suicide declines rapidly. With appropriate and careful medical care, it falls by 70%, and trangender people have every opportunity to live their lives in good health.
As a pediatrician, I fail to see how it is the duty of the Montana Legislature to interfere in my ability to provide the best possible care to my patients, in accordance with well-recognized national guidelines. Providing care that helps rather than harms is my duty according to the oath I took as I became a doctor. I do not appreciate the Montana legislature putting me in conflict between the law and the needs of my patients.
This bill would enact barriers that would cause Montana families irreversible harm, and ultimately cost lives. I urge you to contact legislators and ask them to reconsider this intrusion into my exam room, and this attack on the well-being of Montana youth.
Dr. Lauren Wilson is a pediatrics specialist in Missoula.