Tennessee Republican lawmakers to Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Halt gender-affirming surgeries

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are calling on Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to stop providing gender-affirming surgeries, NBC News reported Oct. 1.

In a Sept. 28 letter to the chair of the hospital's board of directors, about 60 Republican members of the Tennessee House of Representatives raised concerns about gender-affirming care provided at the Clinic for Transgender Health at VUMC.

They wrote that they are "alarmed by recent reports from the Daily Wire detailing the surgical mutilations of minor children" at the hospital.

"While those 18 years and older are recognized as legal adults and free to make decisions in their best interests, it is an egregious error of judgment that an institution as highly respected as Vanderbilt would condone (and promote) harmful and irreversible procedures for minor children in the name of profit," the letter states.

The lawmakers also wrote that they are appalled that recent reports "demonstrate threats by Vanderbilt personnel to take adverse actions against employees who are conscientious and religious objectors."

They called on the hospital's board to halt permanent gender transitioning surgeries on minors and to honor conscientious objectors whose religious beliefs prohibit their participation in certain care.

The letter from lawmakers comes after allegations of illegal conduct at the Clinic for Transgender Health at VUMC. Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has pledged to investigate the allegations, which surfaced after Matt Walsh, a columnist with the Daily Wire, a conservative news website and news company, posted a series of tweets Sept. 20 about the clinic.

"My team and I have been investigating the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt here in Nashville," Mr. Walsh tweeted. "Vanderbilt drugs, chemically castrates and performs double mastectomies on minors."

His social media posts also include a video of Shayne Sebold Taylor, MD, a physician at the VUMC Clinic for Transgender Health, in 2018 saying that the surgeries "make a lot of money" and that female-to-male bottom surgeries "are huge moneymakers." Additionally, he posted a video in which another physician, Ellen Clayton, MD, tells employees that not participating in transition surgeries because of religious beliefs "is not without consequences." 

VUMC referred Becker's to its Sept. 21 statement.

In the statement, the hospital said the social media posts and accompanying videos "misrepresent facts about the care the medical center provides to 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.

The hospital also said it requires parental consent to treat a minor patient who is to be seen for transgender care-related issues, and it never refuses parental involvement in the care of transgender patients who are younger than 18.

"Our policies allow employees to decline to participate in care they find morally objectionable, and do not permit discrimination against employees who choose to do so," the hospital added. "This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender persons."

The lawmakers' letter asks the hospital to respond within 10 days following receipt of the letter and says the response "will determine our steps in the coming weeks." 

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