Republican lawmakers plan to strip Vanderbilt Hospital of child transgender surgeries – Tennessee Lookout


Fueled by a Twitter report, Republican lawmakers plan to pass legislation in 2023 to block Vanderbilt University Medical Center from performing pediatric transgender surgeries.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee called for an investigation, and Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti’s office said he would use the “full extent” of his powers to ensure state laws are being followed.

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House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said in a statement he was reviewing “conflicting reports” on the issue, but noted it was “inappropriate for minors to have sex reassignment surgery or puberty blockers.”

“Your birth sex is your identity. Many members will be introducing legislation at this session to protect Tennesseans from this barbaric practice,” Sexton said.

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Outrage was sparked by some lawmakers after Conservative blogger Matt Walsh published videos and reports Tuesday of Vanderbilt officials discussing gender-affirming surgery.

Walsh, a political commentator, blogger and podcaster for the conservative Daily Wire, participated in similar social media allegations against Boston Children’s Hospital last month. Threats of violence against staff and doctors followed, including a bomb threat that forced the evacuation of the hospital.

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"Your birth sex is your identity.  At this session, legislation will be introduced by many members to protect Tennessee residents from this barbaric practice." said House Speaker Cameron Sexton on Wednesday.  (Photo: John Partipilo)
“Your birth sex is your identity. Many Members will be introducing legislation in this session to protect Tennesseans from this barbaric practice,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton said Wednesday. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A statement released Wednesday by Vanderbilt University Medical Center said the renowned teaching hospital “is now the subject of social media posts and a video misrepresenting facts about the medical center’s care for transgender patients.”

“VUMC created its Transgender Health Clinic because trans people are a high-risk population for mental and physical health problems and have been consistently underserved by the US health care system.”

The statement said the hospital cares for all youth “in accordance with state law and in accordance with professional proactive standards and guidelines established by medical societies,” including requiring parental consent to care for minors Address issues related to transgender care.

As of Wednesday, the Vanderbilt Clinic for Transgender Health websites and related transgender care pages were unavailable. The hospital did not respond to follow-up questions about the locations or whether there were safety concerns at the hospital.

Walsh posted a series of videos to Twitter on Wednesday that he said were taken in 2018 and 2020, including one featuring Vanderbilt physician Dr. Shayne Taylor calling sex reassignment surgery a ‘big money maker’ Some procedures covered under the Affordable Care Act could fetch as much as $40,000, while others could cost $100,000, Taylor said in the video.

Taylor isn’t referring to children in the video clip Walsh posted, which didn’t appear to include her full remarks.

Another video Walsh posted shows a Vanderbilt plastic surgeon discussing guidelines doctors must follow before performing “top surgeries,” or double mastectomies, on transgender patients. The requirements include a letter documenting persistent gender dysphoria from a licensed mental health provider and ensuring patients are able to make fully informed decisions on their own, the doctor said. Patients as young as 16 or 17 who have been treated with testosterone and have parental consent may also qualify, the doctor said.

But Walsh imprecisely characterized the remarks to imply that after children are “drugged and sterilized,” Vanderbilt surgeons “will happily perform double mastectomies on adolescent girls.”

Walsh also released an undated video of Dr. Ellen Clayton, a Vanderbilt professor of law, pediatrics and health policy, in which she noted that “conscientious objection” versus gender-affirming surgery was “problematic.”

“You’re doing something to another person and you’re not paying for the cost of your belief,” she said. “I think that’s a real problem,” she said. She noted that Vanderbilt would likely take religious objections, but “it would not go unchallenged.”

It is not clear from the edited posted clip whether she was referring to patient or staff consequences.

In its statement, Vanderbilt University Medical Center noted that its policies “permit employees to opt out of receiving care they deem morally reprehensible and do not allow discrimination against employees who choose to do so. This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender people.”

In addition, Walsh highlighted Vanderbilt’s “Trans Buddies” program to provide “trans activists” to escort patients to appointments.

The program, a VUMC statement said, has received national recognition for providing volunteers who support people who are “seeking highly personalized care in an unfamiliar setting and who may have had a history of being denied medical services or who may be seeking it out of fear before encounters have avoided seeking them with hostility.”

Lt. gov. Randy McNally and Sen. Ferrell Haile, who sponsored legislation in 2021 to limit transgender drug therapy and surgery for preadolescent children, said they expect 2023, when the 113th

Haile, a Gallatin Republican, said his two concerns are to make sure Vanderbilt Hospital follows state laws, and then to make sure the hospital doesn’t find loopholes.

He indicated that any follow-up legislation would need to have a “medical consideration” in it, but declined to discuss the matter further.

McNally said Wednesday he believes “sex reassignment” surgery should be delayed until a person is past puberty, even if the parents consent, because of the long-term impact on the patient.

“I think in many cases the individual, the child, later in life has difficulties with what happened and I think it’s better to wait and make sure that’s what they need to do when the parents and the child contemplate having such a thing done,” said McNally, a Republican from Oak Ridge.

Matt Walsh has this history of caring for trans people. He really has a focus and an obsession with it.

– Chris Sanders, Tennessee Equality Project

Gov. Lee issued a statement saying he wanted an investigation into the hospital to make sure it was operating legally.

“The ‘Pediatric Transgender Clinic’ at Vanderbilt University Medical Center raises serious moral, ethical and legal concerns. We should not allow permanent, life-changing decisions that harm children or policies that suppress religious liberties, all for the sole purpose of financial gain. We have a duty to protect children in Tennessee, and that warrants a thorough investigation,” Lee said.

And Skrmetti issued his own statement, saying he was “aware of allegations of illegal conduct at the Transgender Health Clinic. General Skrmetti will use the full extent of his authority to ensure compliance with Tennessee law.”

Chris Sanders, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project, criticized the source of the Twitter report.

“Matt Walsh has this history of caring for trans people. He really has a focus and an obsession with it. So what has surprised everyone is this sudden firestorm that has erupted over the gender-affirming care being offered,” Sanders said Wednesday.

Instead of protecting children, Republican lawmakers’ rhetoric Wednesday is endangering their safety and well-being, said Jace Wilder, a graduate student and research fellow at Vanderbilt University.

“It’s a disgrace that the attack on Vanderbilt has the support of the Lee administration,” he said.

“They use trans children as political pawns. They say this will protect children, but this will further perpetuate the violence,” Wilder added.

“Rather than using taxpayer money to investigate an internationally known and respected healthcare facility,” Clemmons said, he would investigate Gov. Lee’s use of no-bid contracts, failure to use federal welfare funds, and failings by the Department of Children’s Support Services, the departure of Lee’s cabinet members, and alleged bribery by state officials during the 2019 House of Representatives vote on coupons.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives filled Twitter with outrage and vowed to dismantle the Vanderbilt program.

Majority Leader William Lamberth said he was “deeply disturbed” by the social media report.

“@GovBillLee is right to call for an investigation and we will support that investigation 100%. This type of child mutilation should be illegal and will be in TN soon,” Lamberth said on Twitter.

Jeremy Faison, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, wrote on Twitter: “It is unconscionable to give hormone replacement therapy to minors, but threatening ‘consequences’ to doctors who have religious objections is against everything this country stands for.”

He added that he will lead the “fight” at the next session to stop the proceedings.

However, their stance contradicts a statement by the American Medical Association.

In a letter to the National Governors Association, Dr. James L. Madara, the association’s CEO and executive vice president, said the group and its member governors oppose state laws that would prohibit medically necessary “sex reassignment-related care for underage patients” because it is a “dangerous state intervention.” ‘ into medical practice and could harm the health of transgender children across the country.

State lawmakers have already enacted legislation restricting sex-affirming hormones for children before puberty. Sanders pointed out that this type of medicine was not practiced when Haile supported his legislation.

A separate bill banning hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery for all minors failed in the legislature earlier this year.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville Democrat, criticized the political outrage over Vanderbilt Hospital’s practices.

“Rather than using taxpayer money to investigate an internationally known and respected healthcare facility,” Clemmons said, he would investigate Gov. Lee’s use of no-bid contracts, failure to use federal welfare funds, and failings by the Department of Children’s Support Services, the departure of Lee’s cabinet members, and alleged bribery by state officials during the 2019 House of Representatives vote on coupons.



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