BOSTON (AP) — Three major medical societies have asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate and prosecute people who threaten violence against children’s hospitals and doctors who provide gender-affirming health care.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Children’s Hospital Association wrote to Garland on Monday. Their demands come amid a litany of threats to doctors and institutions that provide care for transgender children, sometimes including hormones or surgery for older teens.
The association said security at children’s hospitals across the country has improved significantly and is working with law enforcement, while some providers now require ongoing security.
Garland did not immediately comment publicly, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins said this summer that the Justice Department will ensure equal protection of transgender people under the law.
Rollins said she won’t let “hate-based crime” continue in her area after Boston Children’s said in August that its doctors and other staff were threatened with violence over a surgery program for transgender youth . The hospital is home to the nation’s first pediatric and adolescent trans health program. Other U.S. children’s hospitals have also been harassed online.
The medical association said in its letter that the continued social media threats, coupled with harassing emails, phone calls and protesters at medical sites, “raise a high and justifiable level of fear among families, patients and staff.” A hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit was locked down because of a bomb threat, they said.
“From Boston to Akron, from Nashville to Seattle, children’s hospitals, academic health systems and physicians are being targeted and threatened by the delivery of evidence-based healthcare,” the letter reads. Providing this care has become difficult and dangerous, and it has disrupted many other services for families seeking care.”
The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are two of the most influential groups of physicians in the United States, helping to shape government policy at the national level and at the physician’s office. The Children’s Hospital Association represents more than 220 hospitals nationwide that serve children.
Laws and proposed legislation in several states seek to limit children’s access to transgender care or criminalize doctors and parents seeking such services, fueling attacks on popular conservative Twitter accounts. Some of the tweets misled their massive following about the gender-affirming nursing program.
Boston Children’s became the focus of far-right social media accounts, news outlets and bloggers after discovering an informative YouTube video posted by the hospital about providing surgical services to transgender patients.
The Medical Association believes the attacks stemmed from a “deliberate disinformation campaign”. While Americans agree that online disinformation is a problem, there is widespread concern about the federal government’s efforts to monitor domestic online disinformation, with privacy and free speech advocates expressing concern over government violations of free speech rights.
Earlier this year, for example, the Department of Homeland Security launched and quickly shut down a Disinformation Governance Council designed to combat lies that foreign adversaries such as Russia tried to inject into Americans’ social media feeds.