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Police clear bomb threat to Boston Children’s Hospital following viral false claims over trans healthcare

Several hospitals have reported an increase in harassment over care facilities for young trans people

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 31 August 2022 18:08 BST
Children's National Hospital in DC harassed over trans youth services

Boston Children’s Hospital has reported that it received a bomb threat, days after reporting a “large volume” of harassing emails and phone calls threatening violence toward its staff in the wake of far-right influencers and anti-trans activists promoting false claims about its gender-affirming care programme.

A threat was reportedly made on 30 August at about 8.05pm, according to the Boston Police Department. Officers began taping off nearby streets at roughly 9pm, and streets began reopening at about 10pm.

“We are relieved no bomb was found and that employees and patients are safe,” the hospital issued in a statement shared on social media on 31 August. “We remain vigilant in our efforts to battle the spread of false information about the hospital and our caregivers. We are committed to ensuring the hospital is a safe and secure place for all who work here and come here.”

The Independent has requested additional comment from the Boston Police Department.

Boston Children’s Hospital reported receiving threatening phone calls and online messages earlier this month after the Twitter account Libs of Tik Tok alleged that the hospital performed gender-affirming hysterectomies on children under 18 years old.

The hospital is home to the Gender Multispecialty Service, the nation’s first pediatric and adolescent transgender healthcare programme. Only “eligible adolescents and young adults” can receive treatment, and “genital surgeries are only performed on patients age 18 and older”, according to the hospital.

Libs of Tik Tok also published a recording between the account’s founder, Chaya Raichik, and staff at Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC, in which she asked whether a 16-year-old transgender boy is eligible for a hysterectomy.

A hospital spokesperson said that the employees provided inaccurate information, and added that “none of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients,” according to a statement provided to The Washington Post. “We do not and have never performed gender-affirming hysterectomies for anyone under the age of 18.”

Despite attempts to debunk statements and articles shared by influential far-right social media accounts, which have also fuelled “groomer” attacks used to falsely smear LGBT+ people and advocates as pedophiles, their claims have persisted across social media.

“We are deeply concerned by these attacks on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community,” according to statement from Boston Children’s Hospital earlier this month.

“For a hysterectomy performed as part of gender-affirming care, Boston Children’s requires a patient to be capable of consenting for themselves. Age 18 is used to reflect the standard age of majority for medical decision-making,” the hospital stated.

Patients must be age 18 or older and have a letter from a medical doctor stating they have “persistent, well-documented, gender dysphoria” to be eligible for a hysterectomy, which is done only in connection with other affirming care and surgery, per hospital guidance.

The hospital also requires a letter from a mental health provider to ensure that the patient understands the “procedure and recovery needs, fertility implications of surgery, and risks of surgery”.

Care standards from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health also state that the procedure should not be performed on minors.

Leading medical groups including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, among others, have established evidence-based clinical guidelines to treat trans youth, while warning that denying such care will lead to higher rates of suicide, depression and other poor health outcomes.

Right-wing platforms and personalities like The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh and websites like The Post Millennial and Gateway Pundit, as well as other far-right influencers on Twitter and elsewhere with tens of thousands of followers, have also amplified claims about the hospitals’ care.

Violent posts on far-right message boards and platforms have reacted to coverage with calls for doctors to be jailed or killed.

Anti-trans rhetoric and legislation and policies restricting or denying access to gender-affirming care have taken centre stage in many Republican candidates’ midterm election campaigns. Alabama and Arkansas have sought to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, but those measures have been blocked in court as legal challenges play out.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration also recently barred Medicaid recipients from accessing gender-affirming healthcare, joining at least 10 other states where medical treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy are denied coverage under the federal health programme for low-income patients.

The state’s Board of Medicine also is considering rule changes proposed by the state that would deny trans youth from receiving such care and forcibly detransition them.

Twitter has temporarily suspended the Libs of Tik Tok account for violations of its “hateful conduct” policy. Other accounts are active on Meta platforms Facebook and Instagram as well as Truth Social and Substack.

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