This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.
Ever since the Republican-backed ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth passed the Montana House March 24, spokespersons for Gov. Greg Gianforte have been tight-lipped about where the administration stands on the bill as written. Now that Senate Bill 99 is on its way to his desk, reporters took the opportunity to ask the governor about the bill and its possible impact during a March 30 press conference. The questions, which were not asked consecutively, have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: Governor, you talked just now about Montana being a place where health care providers would want to work, where they want to come and practice. We’ve heard a lot of concern from health care providers around a couple of bills this session that would further regulate health care, specifically SB 99, which would ban gender-affirming care. I’m curious what you’d say to health care providers about those concerns.
A: Yeah, so there’s a lot of bills moving through the Legislature. I was proud to get the recognition that this is one of the best states in the country to practice medicine. And our priorities in health care have really been to increase access to care and we’ll continue to promote those priorities.
Q: What are your thoughts on Senate Bill 99?
A: So there’s a lot of bills moving through the Legislature. I understand that’s on its way to my desk, but hasn’t made it yet. And, when it does, we’ll give it careful consideration.
Q: One follow-up on that if you don’t mind. I’m just wondering since it’s very similar to some of the bills that were working their way through the Legislature last session. You heard from constituents about those bills last session and I’m assuming that you’ve heard from constituents so far at this session as well. What are you hearing from people about that bill?
A. Well, in any bill that comes to us, and again, there’s still, I think 1,500 bills working their way through the process, there are many facets. It’s extremely important we take the input of constituents and hear from all sides. We look at the fiscal impact of these bills and that analysis has not been completed by our office. So I’ll just wait to give you specific comment until we get all the information together.
Q: I’m just going to circle back to this one more time since we have the opportunity. I’ve talked to a couple of parents and families who say that they’re considering moving out of state because of Senate Bill 99, because they wouldn’t be able to access the care that they need for their kids, for their adolescents. What do you say to those families?
A: You know, I’ve met with transgender parents, transgender children. We need to make sure everybody’s voice is heard as we make a decision on this bill when it gets to my desk. And we’re still collecting that input.
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