Vanderbilt to review gender-affirming surgeries for minors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced Friday that they are suspending gender-affirming surgeries for minors to review their practices.

The news, delivered in a letter sent to a lawmaker who demanded an end to operations, was made public on Friday afternoon. It comes amid growing political pressure from Republican leaders in Tennessee – many of whom are running for re-election – who called for an investigation into the private nonprofit hospital after videos surfaced on social media last month of a doctor touting gender affirmation procedures as “huge money-makers”. Another video showed a staff member saying anyone with a religious objection should quit.

None of the politicians could point to a specific law the hospital violated, and no agency has yet engaged in an investigation. Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s office said it forwarded its concerns to Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, but his office did not say whether it was investigating the Nashville hospital.

“We are suspending gender-affirming surgeries in patients under 18 while we complete this review, which may take several months,” wrote C. Wright Pinson, deputy chief executive officer and chief health system officer of VUMC.

The GOP-dominated Legislature is set to reconvene in January, and many lawmakers have pledged to introduce legislation further limiting gender-affirming treatments. If successful, it is unclear whether VUMC would be allowed to resume gender-affirming surgeries for minors, regardless of their internal review.

“We shouldn’t allow permanent decisions that change lives and hurt children,” Lee tweeted Friday night. “With the partnership of the General Assembly, this practice should end in Tennessee.”

According to Pinson, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health recently changed its recommendations for treating transgender people, which helped spark the need for a review.

On average, VUMC has provided five gender-affirming surgeries to minors each year since opening its transgender clinic in 2018. All were over the age of 16 and had parental consent, and none had undergone genital surgery. .

“Revenue from this limited number of surgeries represents an intangible percentage of VUMC’s net operating revenue,” Pinson wrote.

Emails provided to The Associated Press through a public records request show that hundreds of Tennesseans contacted the governor’s office to support the closure of VUMC’s transgender youth health clinic, with some asking him to convene a special legislative session to resolve the issue. Others asked if he could suspend the licenses of doctors who work at the clinic.

A few criticized Lee for not taking tougher action sooner when he signed a law banning doctors from providing sex-confirming hormone therapy to prepubescent minors.

Only a handful defended the clinic’s services, with some saying the transgender healthcare they received was life-saving.

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