In the wake of reports surrounding details of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s (VUMC) pediatric “gender-affirming care,” Republican lawmakers of Tennessee are calling on the clinic to pause performing such procedures on children.
In a letter sent on Thursday to VUMC board of directors, a group of 62 Tennessee House Republicans asked Vanderbilt’s pediatric transgender clinic to immediately halt “surgical mutilations of minor children” while they prepare a legislative response.
“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 judgement 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 Republicans wrote.
“Tennesseans across our state have demanded a swift response and a call to action. We agree that these revelations require the legislature to act immediately,” they added.
The lawmakers were referring to reports by Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire. Walsh posted some of his findings on social media, including a video in which a VUMC doctor openly discussed how profitable transgender surgeries can be for the hospital.
The video, which has been shared over 11,000 times in just a week, features a 2018 lecture given by a physician who helped launch VUMC’s pediatric transgender clinic that year. In her speech, the doctor explained that transgender treatments had became so lucrative because of Obamacare, under which insurance providers had to cover “medical expenses for trans folks.”
Specifically, the doctor said that each girl looking to undergo “top surgery” or double breast removal can bring in $40,000 for the hospital. A “bottom surgery,” or vaginoplasty, can bring in $20,000, not including additional costs such as the hospital stay, post-operation care, and anesthesia. A patient receiving “routine hormonal treatment” only a few times a year can also bring in “several thousand dollars,” she said.
Another video Walsh posted shows a Vanderbilt health law expert telling staff that “conscientious objections” to transgender surgeries are “problematic,” and that those staff refusing to be involved in those surgeries due to their religious beliefs would face “consequences.”
“I just want you to take home that saying that you’re not going to do something because of your conscientious—because of your religious beliefs—is not without consequences, and should not be without consequences,” she said. “If you don’t want to do this kind of work, don’t work at Vanderbilt.”
In another video, a Vanderbilt physician discusses the medical center’s guidelines that doctors need to follow before performing “top surgeries.” The requirements include a licensed mental health provider’s letter documenting persistent gender dysphoria, as well as ensuring that the patients are at “the age of maturity” and “capable of making fully informed decisions on their own.”
“However for a lot of our younger patients—again, if they are sixteen, seventeen—here at Vanderbilt, if they have been on testosterone, have parental consent, we’re able to do a lot of the top surgeries for those patients,” she said.
Governor Promises Investigation
Tennessee’s Republican Governor Bill Lee has called for an investigation into the matter.
“The ‘pediatric transgender clinic’ at Vanderbilt University Medical Center raises serious moral, ethical, and legal concerns,” Lee said in a statement to The Daily Wire. “We should not allow permanent, life-altering decisions that hurt children or policies that suppress religious liberties, all for the purpose of financial gain. We have to protect Tennessee children, and this warrants a thorough investigation.”
Earlier this year, Republican state Sen. Janice Bowling introduced a bill that would have banned transgender surgeries, puberty blockers, and cross-sex hormones for minors across Tennessee. The proposal died in committee.
Tennessee also has a law prohibiting female genital mutilation, which is still practiced in some cultures. It is unclear whether that law could ever be applied to transgender surgeries.
In response to criticism, VUMC claimed that the videos Walsh posted “misrepresent facts” about the services it offers.
“VUMC requires parental consent to treat a minor patient who is to be seen for issues related to transgender care, and never refuses parental involvement in the care of transgender youth who are under age 18,” the hospital stated.
“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,” it continued. “This includes employees whose personal or religious beliefs do not support gender-affirming care for transgender persons.”