Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, in this July 16, 2013 photo.The medical center came under intense scrutiny Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, after conservative political commentator Matt Walsh posted a series of tweets blaming the private hospital in opening his transgender clinic because it was profitable, and criticizing some of VUMC’s treatment methods for minors. Now Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is calling for an investigation into the clinic. Credit: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file

Officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center announced Friday that they are suspending gender confirmation surgeries for minors to review their practices.

The news, delivered in a letter to a lawmaker demanding the operations be halted, was made public on Friday afternoon. It is supplied during installation political pressure from Tennessee’s Republican leaders, many of whom are running for re-election, who called for an investigation into the private nonprofit hospital after social networks last month, a doctor touted gender-affirming procedures as “big bucks.” Another video showed an employee saying that anyone who opposes religion should be fired.

Neither politician has been able to name a specific law that the hospital violated, and no agency has yet committed to an investigation. Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s office said they had taken their concerns to Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, but his office would not comment on whether he was considering the Nashville hospital.

“We are suspending gender confirmation surgeries on patients under the age of 18 while we complete this review, which could take several months,” wrote C. Wright Pinson, VUMC’s deputy CEO and chief executive officer of the health system.

The GOP-dominated legislature is scheduled to reconvene in January, and many lawmakers have vowed to introduce legislation that further restricts gender-affirming treatments. If successful, it’s unclear whether VUMC would be allowed to resume gender-affirming surgeries on minors regardless of their internal review.

“We must not allow permanent, life-altering decisions that harm children,” Lee tweeted late Friday. “With the General Assembly’s partnership, this practice must end in Tennessee.”

According to Pinson, the World Professional Transgender Health Association recently changed its guidelines for transgender treatment, which helped prompt the need for a review.

VUMC has performed an average of five sex-affirmation surgeries on minors each year since the transgender clinic opened in 2018. All were over 16 years of age and had parental consent, and none had undergone genital procedures.

“Revenues from these limited number of operations represent an insignificant percentage of VUMC’s net operating income,” Pinson wrote.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show that hundreds of Tennesseans have reached out to the governor’s office in support of closing VUMC’s transgender youth clinic, with some asking him to call a special session of the legislature to address the issue. Others asked if he could suspend the licenses of doctors working at the clinic.

Lee has been criticized by some for not taking tougher steps earlier, when he signed a law banning doctors from providing hormone treatment to gender-confirming minors.

Only a few advocated the clinic’s services, some said yes transsexuals the medical care they received was life saving.

The story of the nation’s first gender-affirming surgery clinic offers both a lesson and a warning

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