Wyoming House Says UW Can Keep $100K Despite Teaching Transgender Treatments

The Wyoming House of Representatives changed course Wednesday and voted against using the budget to strip $100,000 from the University of Wyoming for teaching gender-transition treatments to medical students.

Clair McFarland

February 22, 20244 min read

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The Wyoming House of Representatives changed course Wednesday and voted against using the budget to keep the University of Wyoming from teaching gender-transition treatments.

The debate began Monday, when Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Fort Washakie, proposed an amendment to the House’s version of the budget that would have withheld $100,000 from the University of Wyoming’s family medical residency practice if the practice offered any gender affirmation or gender reassignment treatments.

Proponents said the amendment honored the will of Wyoming by withholding public money from efforts the people would not support and which have not been vetted fully by science.

Critics called it holding money hostage to accomplish a goal that should have been the topic of a standalone policy bill.

Co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Ken Pendergraft of Sheridan and Jeanette Ward of Casper, Penn’s amendment passed 34-28.

But it only survived for two days.

If They Have Complications

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, brought another amendment Wednesday to delete Penn’s amendment.

He said he brought it so Wyoming doesn’t deprive doctors of the tools they need, including to care for people who have complications after they’ve already had gender-transition treatments.

“When they go into a family practice center they need treatment, and they need help,” said Nicholas. “And if they need continuing medical care, we still want to provide medical assistance to them – if the treatment was unsuccessful – whether it caused harm. The fact is, when someone walks through the door, you need to treat them.”

Nicholas also said placing conditions on state funding for a program under its only university is “the wrong way to do (policy). It’s the wrong message to our constituents, to the health care profession.”

Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, echoed these thoughts, saying medical professionals should have the tools necessary to treat adults, and adults should have the freedom to seek treatments.

“The idea that we would say, ‘You’re not going to touch this subset of people or we’re going to take money from you,’ is a really bad way of doing business,” said Oakley.

The Pushback

Ward countered, saying the debate isn’t about autonomy for adults, but about the tenets driving state funding.

“If professionals want to have the freedom to do this, they can do it with their own money, thank you,” said Ward.

Penn agreed. She also said gender-transition treatments shouldn’t be part of a family medicine residency program, but an endocrinology or other specialized program.

Expanding gender-transition treatments into the prevalent realm of family practice pushes it outside is proper scope, said Penn.

“This (condition is) appropriate. It sends a message saying Wyoming is not interested in pursuing this,” she said.

Penn posited that gender-transition treatments are expanding because “a social activist group that passes themselves off as a medical entity” is pushing them.

Delegates are not allowed to use proper nouns on the House floor generally, but Penn confirmed in a later text to Cowboy State Daily that she was referencing the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

The Ones Who Changed Their Minds

Nicholas’ deletion amendment passed narrowly, 33-29.

Most votes remained consistent from Monday to Wednesday, with those voting for Penn’s amendment voting against Nicholas’ deletion amendment, and vice versa.

Four House delegates changed their minds and voted with Nicholas on Wednesday, after voting with Penn on Monday. Those were Republican Reps. Jon Conrad (Mountain View), Barry Crago (Buffalo), John Eklund (Cheyenne) and Kevin O’Hearn (Mills).

Drop In The Bucket

Had the condition passed, the $100,000 it controlled would have been comparably small compared with the total state funding to the UW family medical residency practice, which is about $14.8 million.

Program Serves 90 Adults, 10 Kids

The University of Wyoming’s Casper-based family medicine residency program teaches students gender transition treatments ranging from simple affirmation to working with outside surgical teams, the program’s website says.

Residents also oversee treatments for minors, if the minors have parental permission and oversight, UW told Cowboy State Daily in a Thursday email.

Residents can opt out of performing gender transition treatments, but they are “encouraged to at least observe the visits performed by the attending physician as part of the required curriculum for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education,” the email says.  

In the program, there are now about 100 patients receiving transgender-related treatments. Fewer than 10 of those are minors, says the email. The program started engaging with gender-transition treatments in 2021.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter