Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s transgender clinic in Nashville has suspended gender-affirming surgery for patients under the age of 18, an executive at the center told a Tennessee lawmaker Friday.
Republican Tennessee State Assemblyman Jason Zachary, who had asked VUMC to permanently end gender-affirming surgeries on minors, released a Letter on Twitter he received from Dr. C. Wright Pinson, VUMC Chief Health System Officer.
In the letter, Pinson informs lawmakers that the nonprofit hospital is “on pause” for gender confirmation surgeries on patients under 18 while it considers “new recommendations.”
The move came after pressure from Tennessee’s Republican leaders, who sent a letter to the hospital last week request that Vanderbilt Medical discontinue all underage sex reassignment surgeries.
Gender-affirming nursing uses a multidisciplinary approach to help a person transition from their assigned gender—that which the person was assigned at birth—to the gender by which the person wishes to be known.
Pinson said the suspension was due to an ongoing review of new guidance on treating transgender patients issued by the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, noting that the review “may take several months,” according to the letter.
A spokesman for VUMC confirmed to CNN on Friday that the letter is legitimate but declined to elaborate on the clinic’s new policy.
Pinson’s letter said the Transgender Health Clinic, which was founded in 2018, provided surgical services to an average of five minors a year. In all of these cases, the patients were at least 16 years old, had parental consent, and “none had undergone genital surgery,” the executive said.
Restrictions on gender-affirming procedures for minors have become a contentious political issue in some states, including Texas, where there is an ongoing legal battle over whether parents who allow gender-affirming care for their children can be investigated for “child abuse.”
Major medical bodies — including the American Medical Association — have agreed that gender-affirming treatment is clinically appropriate for children and adults with gender dysphoria, which the American Psychiatric Association says is a psychological distress that can arise when gender identity and gender… Gender assigned to a person does not align birth.
Last year, the Tennessee state legislature passed legislation banning hormone therapy for children who have not yet reached puberty, and the Republican legislature is discussing passing additional restrictions next year.
Tennessee’s ACLU released a statement last month condemning lawmakers’ plans for additional restrictions.
“Parents, patients and medical professionals, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of a particular young person,” Kathy Sinback, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said in a statement. “Medical and mental health treatment for transgender people is guided by evidence-based clinical guidelines and existing state laws that already govern health care for trans Tennessees. Efforts to restrict trans Tennessees’ access to health care are a massive government overreach, and ACLU-TN stands ready to oppose encroachments on parents’ and families’ private medical decision-making rights when they seek gender-affirming care.
The letter from the VUMC board of directors confirmed the possibility of new legal restrictions on gender-based care and said the facility would comply with Tennessee laws.
“We anticipate that this issue will likely be taken up by the General Assembly in its next legislature,” Pinson said. “As always, we will ensure that VUMC’s programs meet any new requirements that may be established as part of Tennessee law.”
The letter went on to say that VUMC’s policies “permit employees to request an accommodation to be exempted from participating in any operation or procedure they believe to be morally reprehensible.” Zachary characterized that statement in his tweet as a pledge to “honor religious holdouts.”
Republican State House Speaker William Lamberth called VUMC’s decision a “victory.”
“This is a win for the safety of our children, but we are committed to ensuring this never happens again in Tennessee,” Lamberth said tweeted.