Healthcare provider organizations have asked the Justice Department to investigate ongoing threats to patients who seek gender-affirming care and the physicians who offer such treatment.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Children’s Hospital Association wrote a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday requesting an investigation into the increasing number of threats being lodged against hospitals, clinicians and patients.
The letter came amid a wave of political and violent threats directed at institutions that provide gender-affirming care to children.
Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts has faced harassment, including a bomb threat, for weeks. Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, has been the subject of a conservative media campaign contending its LGBTQ clinic “mutilates” children. Republican state legislators in Tennessee are amplifying the allegations and calling for an investigation into the hospital’s transgender health offerings.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) recently signed a bill that made OU Health, one of the largest health systems in the Sooner State, ineligible for the state’s distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funding because it provided gender-affirming treatments to youth. OU Health responded by announcing it would cut services.
The upshot of such controversies has been increased threats to hospitals and the clinicians who work at them.
“From Boston to Akron [Ohio] to Nashville to Seattle, children’s hospitals, academic health systems, and physicians are being targeted and threatened for providing evidence-based healthcare,” the provider groups’ letter said. “These attacks have not only made it difficult and dangerous for institutions and practices to provide this care, they have also disrupted many other services to families seeking care.”
Hospitals have had to initiate lockdowns because of bomb threats, substantially increase security for facilities and clinicians facing death threats, and even shift in-person appointments to virtual visits to protect patients and staff.
“Whether it’s newborns receiving intensive care, children getting cancer treatments or families accessing compassionate care for their transgender adolescents, all patients seeking treatment deserve to get the care they need without fear for their personal safety,” American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Moira Szilagyi said in a news release. “We cannot stand by as threats of violence against our members and their patients proliferate with little consequence.”
The groups also called on major technology companies to take action against violent online rhetoric and misinformation on gender-affirming treatment. The AMA, American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association wants Twitter, TikTok and Facebook parent company Meta to better coordinate against misinformation concerning gender-affirming care and to remove violent language referring to specific institutions.
Threats to Boston Children’s Hospital originated after the conservative “Libs of TikTok” account posted a video on Twitter of a physician talking about gender-affirming hysterectomies. The account, which has 1.4 million followers, contended the hospital was performing these surgeries on minors—a claim Boston Children’s Hospital denies.
The “Libs of TikTok” posts remain on Twitter. The social media company issued a seven-day suspension against the account for hateful conduct, which ended this week. Since then, the account has taken aim at a clinic that offers gender-affirming care at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, Maine.
In Nashville, Matt Walsh from the conservative website Daily Wire published an article alleging Vanderbilt University Medical Center is making lucrative profits by “mutilating” children. The report resulted in calls for an investigation into the academic medical center by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) and the Republican supermajority in the state legislature. The sentiment was echoed by TV host Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show reaches approximately 4.5 million people.
“As physicians, we condemn groups that promote hate-motivated intolerance and toxic misinformation that can lead to serious real-world violence and extremism and jeopardize patients’ health outcomes,” AMA President Jack Resneck Jr. said in a news release.