Penn proposes three House budget amendments addressing state funding for abortion care, gender affirming care

    Wyoming Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, proposed three amendments to the House of Representatives budget bill this week, all of which address state funding for abortion care and/or gender affirming care.

    Two of the amendments were approved, including Penn’s proposal to prohibit the Wyoming Department of Health from spending state money on “any gender transition or gender reassignment procedures or any procedures for the purpose of procuring or performing an abortion on any person.”

    “There are … state dollars that have been spent on such procedures,” Penn said. “I know that my constituents and many across the state are not favorable to those ideas, (so) this is not something that we want to be spending taxpayer dollars on.”


    Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said he also “would prefer” it if the state limited the WDH’s ability to reimburse providers for certain procedures – but he didn’t think a budget amendment was the right way to do so.

    “We shouldn’t limit how an agency works by their funds,” he said. “We should develop what the policy is and say, ‘Our policy says that this agency … cannot provide these types of services’ – not just say, ‘You can’t do it because you can’t get any money.’”

    Wyoming Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, weighed in on the amendment too, referring to gender reassignment surgeries as “elective” procedures that she likened to getting a “facelift.”

    “I don’t think that the taxpayers of Wyoming should have to … pay for (that),” she said. “When we’re looking at things that we elect to do, I don’t think that should be part of the funding from the state.”


    The amendment passed 45-17.

    University of Wyoming

    Penn’s next amendment was directed at the University of Wyoming’s family medical residency practice, which she says offers “gender affirming care and access to gender affirming surgeries, per their website.”

    “On the website it does say that they will help the patient work with local and interstate surgical teams to assist in obtaining gender affirmation surgeries,” Penn said. “I have a few concerns about this. One, of course, is, as we’ve previously discussed, I don’t think that’s the wish of the taxpayers.”


    Another of her “major concerns” is the “lack of real evidence” she has seen for established best practices in the area of gender-related medical treatments.

    She added, “this type of treatment … should not be something that should be taught to our family medicine residents – this type of treatment is something that should be handled by an endocrinologist.”

    “Our residents are coming into a taxpayer-funded teaching situation and being taught things and being taught ways to treat patients that are probably not in the best interest of our state,” she said. “If we’re bringing our students, our residents, into these situations where these cares are being provided, then I think it sends the wrong message as to what the appropriate scope of practice is in these circumstances.”


    Penn’s amendment states that $100,000 in funding for the UW family medical residency practice will be withheld if the program offers or performs “any gender transition, gender affirmation or gender reassignment treatments.”

    Ottman suggested physician training in those areas “should be optional,” recalling conversations she has had with medical professionals who told her they had to perform certain procedures in school that they didn’t “want to do.”

    “This is a time in history that we’ve never faced before,” Ottman said. “There’s a lot of issues and a lot of things that people are having to make decisions about. If there are things that should be optional, then I think we need to look closer at that.”

    The amendment passed 34-28.


    The last amendment Penn proposed Monday was “very similar” to the previous amendment addressing the family medical residency practice, but this time, the focus was on UW’s WWAMI Medical Education program, where “there are similar treatments and similar teachings going on.”

    Penn said WWAMI students are also offered courses on “health equity and community organizing, where they work to teach medical students –  doctors – to address social and structural injustices.”

    “Students have the ability to choose (to study) Latinx and Black health justice,” Penn said. “I’m not so certain that I feel like that’s a necessary part of medical instruction. It feels a lot like creating activists … that will then be coming back to our state (to) further influence our state.”

    Penn’s WWAMI amendment received more pushback than the others, with Wyoming Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, saying he was “shocked” by the idea that Wyoming wouldn’t want its medical professionals “to have the full gamut of medical education.”

    “It just seems violent, at this point, for us to be dictating, through financial warfare, what our doctors are entitled to learn, who they’re entitled to treat, how they’re entitled to practice care for our citizenry,” he said. “It’s dangerous. …

    “Take a breath and think about what we’re doing here. This is not a statement the Wyoming Legislature wants to make.”

    Wyoming Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, disagreed with Zwonitzer, however, calling Penn’s amendment “a policy decision” that demonstrates the state’s commitment to “support truth” in the area of gender “dysphoria” – instead of encouraging patients to believe “something that’s not true about themselves.”

    “There is this ideological battle going on right now of whether it’s harmful to help people understand the truth and to come to grips with that or to encourage them to live something that is not true,” Bear said. “That is the decision that we’re talking about. That’s what we’re trying to encourage our WWAMI program to be aligned with. …

    “We want to support doctors who are going to encourage young people to appreciate the things that they’ve been given and to live within that reality, versus encourage them to live some un-reality.”

    Wyoming Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, responded to Bear’s comments by suggesting that, to the contrary, it was Penn’s amendment that represented “un-reality.”

    “There is not a person in this room that doesn’t know or have acquaintance of someone who is transgender or that has different issues, and that’s reality,” Nicholas said. “What is reality is that we care for all people who need care, and we do our best to live in a world that’s diverse. And what we don’t do is impose our reality on the rest of the world, thinking that we are above them and that somehow we (should) injure people with dollars just because they don’t think the way we think.”

    Penn clarified that her amendment wouldn’t bar physicians from “treating specific demographics” of people – instead, she said, “this is about recognizing some of the terminology … in these course descriptions (that) indicates there’s an underlying ideology here.”

    For example, she said, some medical students might be taught to “immediately affirm” patients who are experiencing gender dysphoria, instead of responding with statemetns like “Let’s discuss that,” “What makes you think that?” and “What do you think this is going to do to change your life?”

    “Are (these doctors) going to properly treat the citizens of Wyoming in the future, or are they going to follow the ideologic lines of activist groups across the country?” Penn asked. “(If) we adopt these ideologies, we are harming those patients who we’re supposed to be helping.”

    The amendment failed 24-38.

    The Wyoming House of Representatives passed its budget bill – House Bill 1 – on second reading Monday, and the third reading is scheduled to take place Wednesday, according to the House calendar.


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