ICYMI: Leading Medical Organizations Call for Action to Counter Threats, Abusive Behavior Targeting Health Care Facilities, Workers and Families

by Delphine Luneau

In Joint Statement, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association Announce Letter Sent to Department of Justice and Social Media Giants in Response to Wave of Violent Threats Over Evidence-Based, Gender-Affirming Care

WASHINGTON — As a wave of violent threats targeting medical professionals, children’s health care facilities, and parents and families continues across the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical Association (AMA) and Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) today sent a joint letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice calling on the authorities to investigate these violent threats.

The organizations, which collectively represent millions of doctors, also called for technology organizations to take concrete steps against the wave of disinformation and hate-filled speech on social media and other communication platforms. The call echoes a recent report from the Human Rights Campaign and the Center for Countering Digital Hate that found that anti-LGBTQ+ content on social media was largely driven by a small group of extremist politicians and their allies who together are driving a coordinated and concerted campaign to attack LGBTQ+ kids.

In response to the letter, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President, Programs, Research & Training Jay Brown issued the following statement:

“This moment needs to be a wakeup call for everyone with the power to step in here and halt the violent threats and abuse targeting caring medical professionals, loving parents and transgender children. This situation requires a coordinated effort from local, state and federal authorities. And it should be a wake-up call for the tech companies that have done far too little, far too slowly, to address the wave of focused hate and disinformation on their social media platforms. What starts with a post or a tweet quickly spirals into bomb threats, harassing phone calls, death threats and more, and the pace of it has been relentless. This is having a chilling effect on life-saving and evidence-based care – care that improves mental health outcomes and leads to a better quality of life for those who receive it.
“The people conducting this wave of threatened violence are well-organized and funded, and countering it will take a concerted effort by the authorities and the acknowledgement of social media platforms that they’ve done far too little, even as much of this hateful behavior has been organized and conducted right in the open.”

Excerpts from the letter from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association:

“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. These attacks have not only made it difficult and dangerous for institutions and practices to provide this care, they have also disrupted many other services to families seeking care.”

“These coordinated attacks threaten federally protected rights to health care for patients and their families. The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment, and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions.”

“Our organizations are dedicated to the health and well-being of all children and adolescents. We are committed to the full spectrum of patient care–from prevention to critical care. We stand with the physicians, nurses, mental health specialists, and other health care professionals providing evidence based health care, including gender-affirming care, to children and adolescents.

Social Platforms Enabling Spread of Inflammatory, Discriminatory Rhetoric

HRC recently released a report, Digital Hate: Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Dangerous Lies About LGBTQ+ People, alongside the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) that explicitly noted the rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric online. The report found that the average number of tweets per day using slurs such as “groomer” and “pedophile” in relation to LGBTQ+ people surged by 406% in the month after the Florida “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill was passed, resulting in a sharp spike in online homophobia and transphobia. The report also reveals that the anti-LGBTQ+ content was largely driven by a small group of extremist politicians and their allies who together are driving a coordinated and concerted campaign to attack LGBTQ+ kids in an effort to rile up extreme members of their base ahead of the midterm elections.

According to the report’s findings:

  • In a matter of mere days, just ten people drove 66% of impressions for the 500 most viewed hateful “grooming” tweets — including Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw, extremist members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, and pro-Trump activists like “Libs of TikTok” founder Chaya Raicheck.

  • Posts from these 10 people alone reached more than 48 million views, and the top 500 most influential “grooming” tweets all together were seen 72 million times.

The report also notes that there are real life consequences to anti-LGBTQ+ hate being spread online.

  • Anti-LGBTQ+ Violence — Nearly 1 in 5 of any type of hate crime is now motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias; The last two years have been the deadliest for transgender people, especially Black transgender women, we have seen since we began tracking fatal violence against the community.

  • Legislative — Legislators in state houses across the country introduced 344 anti-LGBTQ+ bills this session, and 25 of them passed. These bills and laws attack the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender and non-binary young people and their families, preventing them from accessing age-appropriate medical care, playing sports with their friends, or even talking about who they are in school.

  • Mental Health Outcomes — More than 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said their mental health has deteriorated as a result of recent efforts to restrict access to things like gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Read the full report here.

Rhetoric Turns Into Direct Action

  • Children’s Hospitals In Boston, Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, Washington D.C. And Oregon Have Faced Barrage Of Threats And Harassment. [Becker’s Hospital Review, 9/2/22]

  • Tucker Carlson Put Out “Potential Hit List” Of Vanderbilt Hospital Directors. [LGBTQ Nation, 9/23/22]

  • Matt Walsh Targeted Vanderbilt University And Accused The Hospital Of Mutilating Minors. [LGBTQ Nation, 9/22/22]

  • Fox News Elevated False Claims About Medical Care For Transgender Youth, Leading To Threats Of Violence Against Hospitals. [Media Matters, 9/8/22]

  • A Massachusetts Woman Made Bomb Threats Against Boston Children’s Hospital. [NBC, 9/15/22]

  • A Member Of A Pro-Trump Message Board Said It Was “Time To Start Executing These ‘Doctors.’” [Vice, 8/17/22]

  • A Telegram User Said “Demons Like This Do Not Deserve To Breathe” In Response To Article Repeating False Claims About Gender Affirming Care. [Vice, 8/17/22]

  • 4Chan Users Targeted The Trevor Project, A Suicide Prevention Hotline For LGBTQ People, And Hoped Clogging Up Their Phone Lines Would Cause Someone In Need Of Help To Kill Themselves. [Vice, 9/2/22]

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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