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Methodist hospital pauses sex change surgeries, faces pushback from ACLU

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A group of medical professionals perform surgery in a hospital. |

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) threatened to file a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services against a Memphis-based hospital after it temporarily stopped performing gender-affirming surgeries. 

Rachel Powers, a Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare spokesperson, told The Chrisitan Post in a statement Wednesday that the hospital temporarily paused its "gender-affirming" services after some providers "voiced questions." She asserted that the hospital remains committed to delivering "high quality and compassionate care" to all patients, regardless of "race, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression."

"In recent weeks, some care providers voiced questions about patients receiving gender affirming procedures at a facility affiliated with our health system," Powers wrote. "This resulted in a temporary pause to review current practices." 

The hospital has not changed its practices regarding trans-identifying individuals, Powers said, adding that physicians are moving forward with rescheduling patients before the end of the year.

ACLU-TN did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

In a letter last week to the hospital, ACLU-TN stated that it was "deeply concerned" over the hospital's decision to change its policy regarding surgeries for trans-identifying individuals. 

Last month, the legal advocacy group's client, 19-year-old Chris Evans, had a surgery appointment canceled after the hospital temporarily halted such procedures. 

ACLU-TN argued that the hospital had engaged in "unlawful discrimination" based on sex under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and violated protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. 

The legal advocacy group demanded the hospital "promptly rectify its unlawful actions" by rescheduling its client's surgery and any additional support services before Dec. 31, 2022.

The organization threatened to file a complaint with HHS if its client's appointment was not rescheduled before the deadline. 

"All people should be able to access necessary medical care without fear of discrimination because of who they are," ACLU-TN Staff Attorney Lucas Cameron-Vaughn stated in a statement last week. 

"Denial of healthcare results in life-threatening situations for all patients. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is risking the lives of its patients by jumping into culture wars. Discrimination does not belong in healthcare."

Delano Squires, a research fellow in the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, hopes Tennessee lawmakers would "do everything in their power" to protect children in the state. 

"We do recognize, however, that in the long term, it will be hard for politicians to outlaw what medical professionals affirm," he wrote in a Wednesday statement to CP. "This is why doctors and public health organizations must remember one of the bedrock principles of bioethics to which they all swore: 'first, do no harm.'" 

The policy expert noted the potential physical and emotional harms associated with chemical and surgical transitioning. He argues against doctors prescribing such life-altering steps for someone experiencing "temporary discomfort" with their body. 

"That is why The Heritage Foundation believes every hospital across the country, especially those that specialize in treating children, should immediately stop any and all medical treatments that attempt to chemically or surgically 'transition' patients," Squires wrote. 

The provision of sex-change surgeries at another Tennessee hospital made headlines earlier this year.

As The Christian Post reported, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville ceased performing sex-change surgeries on minors following a Sept. 28 letter from State Rep. Jason Zachary and other Tennessee House Republicans. 

The letter asked the Vanderbilt Board of Directors to "take immediate action by halting all permanent gender transition surgeries being performed on minor children" and "honor all conscientious objectors whose religious beliefs prohibit their engagement in certain medical procedures." 

In a September letter to the state representative, VUMC Deputy CEO and Chief Health Systems Officer Dr. C. Wright Pinson wrote that the hospital is "pausing gender affirmation surgeries on patients under 18" while it conducts a clinical review to ensure compliance with recently issued guidelines from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health.

Pinson claimed that "VUMC's policies and practices allow employees to request an accommodation to be excused from participating in surgeries or procedures they believe are morally objectionable."

Zachary's letter came after a report by The Daily Wire's Matt Walsh accused the hospital of providing "gender-affirming hormone therapy" and "pubertal blocking" to trans-identified youth. 

The report also highlighted a video showing a Vanderbilt health law expert disparaging "conscientious objections," saying if "you don't want to do this kind of work, don't work at Vanderbilt."

An archived version of the hospital's webpage captured on Aug. 31 removed the list of services the hospital provides to trans-identified children but still mentioned that the clinic "provides care to gender variant and transgender children and adolescents." The webpage said the hospital "offers a setting for your family to receive education and resources regarding medical transition."

"Before we begin such treatments as pubertal blocking or gender-affirming therapy, we require a letter from a mental health provider and informed consent," the modified webpage read.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com.

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