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MT House rejects bill on transgender youth treatment

Reverses vote from day earlier
House Republicans reach rules compromise on 2019 Legislature’s opening day
Posted at 2:38 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 19:52:24-05

HELENA — In a reversal from a day earlier, the Montana House Tuesday voted down a bill that would prohibit transgender youth from getting medical treatment or surgery related to a sex-change.

House Bill 113 went down on a 49-51 vote, one day after it had passed a preliminary vote 53-47. Five additional Republicans -- including Majority Leader Sue Vinton of Billings -- on Tuesday changed their "yes" votes from a day earlier to form the majority to defeat HB113.

In total, 18 Republicans joined all 33 House Democrats against the bill. One Republican lawmaker -- Rep. Larry Brewster of Billings -- changed his Monday "no" vote to a "yes" on Tuesday.

The House did not take a final vote Tuesday on a separate bill that says athletes at Montana schools and colleges can compete only on teams that align with their "biological sex."

Also Tuesday, the House -- as expected -- approved four bills restricting or further regulating abortion in Montana, on final votes that fell mostly along party lines, with Republicans in favor.

The four abortion bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, the sponsor of the two transgender bills, said Monday that HB113 would protect children from undergoing sex-change operations or other decisions that could affect them for a lifetime, and that the decision should be left to them when they become adults.

Opponents argued that the measure unduly interferes in personal medical decisions and that it also would harm Montana's economy, by discriminating against transgender youths.

The abortion bills that gained final approval Tuesday by the House are:

HB136, which essentially bans abortions in Montana after 20 weeks of pregnancy, stating that a fetus can feel pain at that point.

HB171, which says abortion-inducing drugs can be dispensed only in person and bans their distribution on college campuses or schools in Montana.

HB140, which would require that women seeking an abortion be given the opportunity to see an ultrasound or listen to the heartbeat of the fetus before they decide.

HB167, which would place a referendum before Montana voters in November 2022, on whether to approve a law that says any infant “born alive,” including after a botched abortion, is a legal person.