Garland is asked to investigate threats against children’s hospitals | national news

BOSTON (AP) — Three major medical associations have called on 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, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association wrote to Garland on Monday. Their demands come amid a series of threats against doctors and institutions that provide medical care to transgender children, sometimes including hormones or surgery for older teenagers.

Children’s hospitals across the country have significantly tightened security and are working with law enforcement, while some providers now require constant security, the associations said.

Garland did not immediately comment publicly, and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said this summer that the Justice Department will provide equal protection for transgender people under the law.

Rollins said she would not allow “hate-based criminal activity” to continue in her district after Boston Children’s Hospital said in August that its doctors and other staff were threatened with violence because of its surgery program for transgender youth. The hospital is home to the first pediatric and adolescent transgender health program in the United States. Other US children’s hospitals have also been harassed online.

The medical associations said in their letter that social media threats have continued, coupled with harassing emails, phone calls and protesters at healthcare sites, causing “elevated and justifiable fear among families, patients and staff. A hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit was closed because of a bomb threat, they said.

“From Boston to Akron to Nashville to Seattle, children’s hospitals, academic health systems and physicians are being targeted and threatened for providing evidence-based health care,” the letter reads. “These attacks have not only made it difficult and dangerous for institutions and practices to provide this care, but they have also disrupted many other services to families seeking care.”

The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are two of the nation’s most influential physician groups, helping to shape government policy nationally and in physicians’ offices. The Children’s Hospital Association represents more than 220 hospitals serving children nationwide.

Laws and bills in several states aimed at limiting children’s access to transgender care or criminalizing doctors and parents who seek it have emboldened attacks from popular conservative Twitter accounts. Some tweets misled their many followers about gender-affirming care procedures.

Boston Children’s became the focus of far-right social media accounts, news outlets and bloggers after finding informative YouTube videos posted by the hospital about surgical offerings for transgender patients.

Medical associations argue the attacks are rooted in an “intentional disinformation campaign”. Whereas Americans agree online misinformation is a problemthere is widespread apprehension about federal efforts to monitor national disinformation online, with privacy and free speech advocates raising concerns about government encroachment on free speech rights .

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security, for example, launched then quickly closed a disinformation governance council which was intended to counter the lies that foreign adversaries, such as Russia, are trying to inject into Americans’ social media feeds.

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