Children's hospitals' latest challenge: Harassment campaigns

Children's hospitals and clinicians across the country have faced a barrage of threats and harassment in recent weeks over medical care they provide to transgender children.

Children's hospitals in Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., have all encountered harassment in varying forms and severity. Much of the online harassment has come from a conservative activist group, which recently posted a recording on Twitter in which phone operators at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., incorrectly said surgeons have performed hysterectomies on patients younger than 18, according to a hospital statement shared with Becker's. Other conservative groups have also magnified the social media posts. 

Children's National said it has received a large volume of hostile phone calls, social media messages and emails since the recording was posted. 

"None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients," Children's National said. "The information in the recording is not accurate. To reiterate, we do not and have never performed gender-affirming hysterectomies on minors."

Portland-based Oregon Health & Science University, which operates Doernbecher Children's Hospital, told Becker's it also has been facing online harassment over its gender-affirming healthcare services. 

"While Oregon Health & Science University has seen some unkind Twitter traffic in recent weeks, we haven't experienced the level of vitriol that has recently been directed at other hospitals for offering gender-affirming care," a spokesperson said. 

Boston Children's reported a more serious situation, even prompting the Justice Department to weigh in.

In a statement shared with Becker's on Aug. 17, the hospital said it "has been the target of a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls and harassing emails, including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff."

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins called the news "disturbing to say the least." She also said her office would "continue to pursue all leads" in the threats against Boston Children's. 

Additionally, Boston Children's confirmed that police investigated a report of an anonymous bomb threat at the hospital Aug. 30. No explosive device was located, but the hospital was on lockdown as police investigated.

"We moved swiftly to protect our patients and employees, and we are working with law enforcement and outside experts as they closely investigate this situation," Boston Children's said in a statement shared with Becker's on Aug. 31. "We are relieved no bomb was found and that employees and patients are safe.

"We remain vigilant in our efforts to battle the spread of false information about the hospital and our caregivers. We are committed to ensuring the hospital is a safe and secure place for all who work here and come here."

The hospital added that it will provide additional information as it is able.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago also condemned the harassment and threats against the transgender community and pediatric healthcare providers in an Aug. 23 statement.

"We stand in solidarity with our transgender patients and families, community and colleagues who are providing gender-affirming care," the hospital said.

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