Tennessee GOP tells hospital to stop providing gender-affirming surgeries, says legislature must act ‘immediately’

Story at a glance

  • Dozens of Tennessee House Republicans are calling on Vanderbilt University Medical Center to stop providing gender-affirming surgeries to minors.

  • In a letter sent to hospital leadership last week, lawmakers said they were alarmed by reporting from the Daily Wire, a conservative news site, that detailed “surgical mutilations” at the hospital’s Pediatric Transgender Clinic.

  • The hospital in a statement said the outlet’s reporting had misrepresented facts about the care provided to young transgender patients.

More than 60 Tennessee House Republicans have signed onto a letter demanding that Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) halt all gender-affirming surgical procedures for transgender youth younger than 18.

In a letter sent last week to the hospital’s president and board of directors, lawmakers wrote that they have been “alarmed” by recent reports from the Daily Wire, a conservative news site, that detail the “surgical mutilations” of children at VUMC’s Pediatric Transgender Clinic.

“Tennesseans across the state have demanded a swift response and a call to action. We agree that these revelations require the legislature to act immediately,” lawmakers wrote, adding that the clinic’s practices qualify as “nothing less than abuse.”

The group called on the hospital’s board to “take immediate action” by halting all “permanent gender transitioning surgeries being performed on minor children.”

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In a viral Twitter thread posted last week, Daily Wire host Matt Walsh said he and his team had discovered that VUMC “drugs, chemically castrates, and performs double mastectomies on minors.”

The outlet’s reporting also caught the attention of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), who last week called for an investigation into the hospital’s transgender clinic, telling the Daily Wire that the allegations made against the hospital raise “serious moral, ethical and legal concerns.”

In a statement the following day, VUMC said the outlet had misrepresented facts about the care provided to young transgender patients.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to providing family-centered care to all adolescents in compliance with state law and in line with professional practice standards and guidance established by medical specialty societies,” the statement reads.

Most major medical associations have said that gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and adults is medically necessary and often life-saving.

The hospital added that it requires parental consent to treat patients younger than 18, and physicians and other employees may decline to participate in care they find “morally objectionable.”

“This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender persons,” the hospital wrote.

State lawmakers have asked VUMC leadership to respond to their letter by no later than Oct. 8.

“Your response will determine our steps in the coming weeks, as well as the action we will take when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes January 10, 2023,” they wrote.

More than a dozen states — including Tennessee — have introduced measures this year to ban or heavily restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for minors. Several other children’s hospitals and medical facilities that provide transgender health care to patients younger than 18 have recently been targeted in a string of right-wing attacks on social media that allege doctors are abusing children.

In August, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced federal legislation that would make it a felony — punishable by up to 25 years in prison — to provide gender-affirming health care to a minor.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) last week attempted to introduce an amendment to Congress’ short-term government funding bill to prevent tax dollars from being used to fund gender-affirming care for youth under 18, but the amendment was blocked from consideration by Democrats.

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