MT House Approves Bill To Deny LGBTQ Healthcare

This bill is specifically aimed at gay and trans people, especially gay and trans kids.   In the article on Rep talks about traditional values and we all know what that is code for.   A view that society was better in 1950 when white Christian men were in assumed to always be in charge, women were subservient to those white Christian men, black people knew and kept to their place, while the LGBTQ+ were hidden from society never being seen or talked about publicly.   These republicans want to enshrine in law the right to discriminate against those they think shouldn’t be in society.  They want to have it be legal to show your displeasure / hate by denying people public services that are extended to the people they think are good normal people.  If you think this is OK for doctors to deny care to LGBTQ+ people because they don’t like them, substitute black for LGBTQ+ and do you still see it as OK.    I worked around doctors and I can tell you many are bigots and racists.   Especially now that it costs so much to go to college and medical school new doctors tend to be from families of doctors.   It is fast becoming a profession that runs in families while those not wealthy students tend to be come either Phyicians Assistants or go into nursing and become Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner.  I have sat at the nurses desk and listened to the most bigoted religious doctors (Catholic doctors seem to have a huge moral superiority chip on their shoulders or at least the ones I worked with did.) talk about their patients / the families of patients that horrified me.   I have told the story of a highly religious catholic doctor that refused to recognize or honor the legal paperwork giving a same sex partner authority over his lovers care going to the extent to contact the estranged family to instead follow their wishes.   When told by the hospital legal department that he was not allowed to do that and to include the same sex partner the doctor came in, signed himself off the case, and left.   Our ICU director had to scramble to find a doctor with the needed credentials to take over care as the patient was in an ICU which needs doctors with certain qualifications.  The point was his bigotry and hate for gays meant more to him, was more important to him than the health of the patient, the patient’s wishes, or the patient’s long term same sex relationship.  Think what would have happened had this law that they are trying to pass would have let that doctor do?   How is that tolerable?  Hugs

HB 303, which allows medical providers to decline services based on moral or religious beliefs, cleared a key House vote Monday.
Montana state capitol Helena
Credit: Eliza Wiley / MTFP

State lawmakers in the House of Representatives gave broad approval Monday to a bill that would allow medical providers, health care facilities and insurers to deny services based on “ethical, moral, or religious beliefs or principles,” signaling the bill’s likely advancement to the Senate this week. 

House Bill 303, sponsored by Rep. Amy Regier, R-Kalispell, passed the Republican-majority chamber largely along party lines, with 65 votes in favor and 35 against, after roughly 20 minutes of debate.

Regier portrayed the bill as a “preservation and protection for medical conscience” in the state for practitioners and health care institutions that object to specific “lifestyle and elective procedures” such as physician aid in dying, prescribing marijuana or opioids, abortion procedures and gender-affirming medical care for transgender people.

“To be clear, this bill would not give the right to refuse to serve a person. It would only apply to the narrow circumstances where a nurse or physician cannot conscientiously perform a specific procedure,” Regier said.

A subsection of the bill says it is not meant to conflict with the federal emergency health care access law known as EMTALA as it applies to health care institutions, such as hospitals. But the bill does not provide a holistic exemption for emergency departments and emergency health care providers. When it comes to abortion, for example, the bill would require providers to opt-in to participating in those procedures in writing beforehand.

Similar legislation has had recent success in other states. For instance, a Medical Ethics and Diversity Act was signed into law in South Carolina last spring. The legislation in that state saw support from the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative religious advocacy group that is also backing the Montana proposal.

The opposition to South Carolina’s legislation, including from transgender patients and LGBTQ advocacy groups, echoes concerns now surfacing in Montana over HB 303. Medical associations and groups, including the Montana Hospital Association, Montana Primary Care Association, Montana Nurses Association and the Montana Medical Association, testified against the bill during a January committee hearing, saying it would put patients’ care at risk. 

During Monday’s debate on the House floor, Democrats reiterated that the bill includes no discrimination protection for patients, and does not guarantee that a patient has a right to access health care even if a specific provider declines to participate in those services. 

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, told fellow lawmakers the bill would mean transgender people like herself could be turned away from medical services they need.

“What is actually going to happen is it will be a denial based on diagnosis. Something like, I am diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Zephyr said. “And the thing is, that is inherently discriminatory because you cannot pass my diagnosis from who I am. To deny me based on my diagnosis of gender dysphoria is to deny me based on my being a trans woman.”

Republican moderates appeared to try and derail the bill by proposing a strategic amendment during Monday’s floor session. 

As written, HB 303 does not apply to a “health care institution or health care payer owned or operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Some Republican representatives showed interest in striking that provision from the bill, an amendment that would have triggered a higher threshold for the bill to pass because of a specific provision of the state constitution. That amendment, proposed by Rep. Tom Welch, R-Dillon, failed in a 39-61 vote. 

Republicans who spoke in support of the bill on the floor said they hoped the bill would protect freedom of expression for medical providers, even those they disagree with. 

“I think in this increasingly lack of traditional values and conscience world, and oftentimes profit-driven world, that protection needs to be provided for providers and health care workers that do have those values and do have that conscience,” said Rep. Jerry Schilling, R-Circle. 

Other Democrats who considered the bill as part of the House Judiciary Committee urged lawmakers to consider the unintended consequences of the bill. Rep. Laura Smith, D-Helena, said she’d heard stories from parents of young children faced with challenging medical circumstances who feared that, had HB 303 been in place, their desires for care would have been trumped by the prerogative or ideology of their providers. 

“This is just one of many examples that I receive where medical teams have tried to deny parents’ rights to choose procedures for their children,” Smith said. “If the bill passes, it will take away parental rights, and your constituents’ parental rights, to make these life-and-death procedural and medical decisions for our own children.”

The bill ultimately passed with widespread Republican support and one affirmative vote from Rep. Frank Smith, D-Poplar. Four Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in opposition.

If the bill passes a third, non-debatable vote this week, it will then be transmitted to the Senate and assigned to a committee for a second hearing. 

Speaking to Montana Free Press Monday afternoon, Regier said she was pleased by the vote margin. 

“It’s what we all hope for,” she said. 


4 thoughts on “MT House Approves Bill To Deny LGBTQ Healthcare

  1. You know, both as a classroom para and as an after school tutor, I’m aware that if we needed a sub for any reason or amount of time, we had to call and get a sub for ourselves. It certainly made people decide how sick they were, and also to form small networks of people to depend on to sub. I wonder why that isn’t the case with medical personnel, both more essential and better paid than teaching assistants.
    Seems like filling medical positions would be a priority. Ah, yeah, though. Denial of care is the priority. Ugghhh


  2. This is difficult for me to fathom. Between logging, hell-raisin’, the university and the law firm I spent a baker’s dozen years in Montana, raised my kids there, and how I remember it people minded their own damned business, didn’t care about the color of your underwear. As long as you minded your own damned business.

    Like Oregon, Republicans ruined it …

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Scottie;
    The medical field is filled with lgbtq people as well as those who are friends of them. I can’t help but to wonder if the nurses, doctors, techs, etc. who are lgbtq were to then reply with a demand that they are not willing to treat any who are prejudiced, due to the fact that it is against our own morals.

    big hugs;


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