NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Republican state lawmakers said Vanderbilt University Medical Center has responded to their demands and will stop gender-affirming surgeries for minors at their hospital.
In a letter from Vanderbilt posted by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), VUMC said it will pause gender-affirming surgeries for minors, saying they will use this time to review the latest recommendations in transgender care and speak to experts in the field.
News 2 has not received the aforementioned letter from Vanderbilt, but in the one posted by Representative Zachary, Deputy CEO Dr. Wright Pinson said, “We are pausing gender affirmation surgeries on patients under age 18 while we complete this review, which may take several months.”
Kelly Stosik, a mother of a transgender teenager, said she is disappointed with VUMC’s decision to pause these procedures for the time being.
“It sends a message to trans people, it sends a message to the LGBTQIA community as a whole that we might withhold care for you if someone puts enough pressure on us,” she said.
Stosik said when her child told her she identifies as a boy when he was 14, it was a huge, positive shift.
“His personality blossomed, his confidence went up, his interest in things he was more vocal, and it was really awesome. It was really great to see,” she said.
While Stosik said her child is not currently on the road to medical procedures, she doesn’t agree with the choice being taken away from their family.
“With him and with our collective family we make choices, Aster doesn’t always have his way with things. We don’t coddle to his every whim, but we take care of him and we love him, and we honor where he comes from and the way he communicates with us,” she said.
The hospital also addressed many of the accusations they faced from GOP lawmakers and a conservative commentator.
To the claim that they “mutilate” children, the hospital said none of their minor patients received “genital procedures” and that every procedure requires parental consent.
Regarding the claim that VUMC performs these gender-affirming surgeries in part because they are “very financially profitable,” the hospital said they perform on average five gender-affirming surgeries annually.
In addition, according to the letter, the limited surgeries represent an “immaterial percentage” of the hospital’s operating revenue, and anyone who has a moral objection to the surgeries can request accommodations.
Addressing concerns that members of the VUMC team who refuse to perform these surgeries are threatened, the hospital plainly denied that claim.
VUMC said employees are allowed to be excused from surgeries they find “morally objectionable.”
State GOP lawmakers said they are drafting legislation for the next session that would ban all “irreversible” medical procedures that change the external sexual characteristics of a child.
Stosik called this potential legislation “horrifying” and said she worries this decision and rhetoric from lawmakers will contribute to the already high rate of suicide among transgender youth.
“Kids will die because they don’t feel the support,” she said. “Because they don’t have the avenues to be themselves.”
She also said to anyone who thinks her child may change his mind or this is just a phase that this is something her child feels in his core.
“He is talking about who he is, not a hobby,” she said.