AMA leads push for DOJ, Big Tech action to quash 'disinformation' about 'gender affirming' care

"The American Medical Association is asking Big Tech and the Department of Justice to censor, deplatform, investigate, and prosecute journalists who question the orthodoxy of radical gender surgeries for minors," tweeted Manhattan Institute's Christopher Rufo.

Updated: October 6, 2022 - 11:22pm

A year after Attorney General Merrick Garland promised to deploy the FBI against heated, parent-led protests at school board meetings, medical associations are seeking a similar response, one which could cite ill-defined "disinformation" and "provoking" threats of violence to squelch scrutiny of "gender affirming" treatment for minors.

The Oct. 3 letter to Garland from the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Children's Hospital Association resembles the National School Boards Association's September 2021 "domestic terrorism" letter, which prompted Garland's pledge but also a subsequent revolt by half of NSBA's state affiliates.

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit by parents against Garland last month, rejecting their claim that his Oct. 4, 2021 memo lays out a DOJ policy that "chills their activities protesting their school districts' policies."

Parents Defending Education is still trying to get an apology from Garland, circulating a petition on the one-year anniversary of his pledge. "This choreography made one thing very clear: there was a coordinated campaign to intimidate American citizens into silence — and the Department of Justice was complicit," the activist group wrote.

The medical groups now seek federal investigations of entities and individuals who are "coordinating, provoking and carrying out bomb threats and threats of personal violence against children's hospitals and physicians across the U.S." 

They told Garland that the new scrutiny has "increased threats via social media" to children's hospitals and their medical staff, "including to their personal accounts," as well as "harassing emails, phone calls, and protestors at health care sites."

The groups also want tech platforms to crack down on this "intentional campaign of disinformation" led by "a few high-profile users on social media [who] share false and misleading information." 

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which is more conservative than the AMA, accused its competitor of hypocrisy for defending "radical gender surgeries on minors, while unashamedly attacking doctors who dare to help patients access early COVID treatment or unbiased information about COVID shots."

The letter to Garland doesn't mention that the purported misinformation comes from the medical facilities' own websites and social media accounts. More than a dozen have scrubbed their websites following recent scrutiny, medical publisher STAT reported this week.

The letter had immediate political repercussions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on AMA members to "RESIGN NOW" and "demand your dues be refunded" and separately said the letter by itself shows the "Biden DOJ is thoroughly corrupt & weaponized to attack their political enemies."

Georgia congressional candidate Rich McCormick, who practiced emergency medicine in war zones, blasted the "[a]bsolutely disgusting attempt" by a government stooge "to force their radical agenda down our throats." 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed legislation the day after the letter to block funding for "gender transition services for minors" at Oklahoma Children's Hospital and called on the Legislature to ban such "irreversible" procedures and therapies statewide.

"The American Medical Association is asking Big Tech and the Department of Justice to censor, deplatform, investigate, and prosecute journalists who question the orthodoxy of radical gender surgeries for minors, arguing that public criticism is 'disinformation,'" tweeted the Manhattan Institute's Christopher Rufo, who has exposed school curricula informed by critical race theory nationwide.

Federal action against "provoking" possible attacks would plausibly violate the Supreme Court's landmark 1969 Brandenberg decision. That limits the government to prohibiting speech that is "directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action."

The vague term is arguably broad enough to encompass the newsgathering activities that have prompted much of the recent scrutiny on pediatric gender clinics. The Daily Wire has published several reports on clinics that offer puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgical removal of breasts and genitals.

The news and opinion site's Nashville-based TV host Matt Walsh provoked a political firestorm in Tennessee by documenting Vanderbilt University Medical Center's advertised practices from its website and videos on its Facebook page. He's now leading a campaign to outlaw "child mutilation" in the Volunteer State.

This summer, Canada's Post Millennial reported on Boston Children's Hospital's advertised surgeries for "transgender teens" and a 2018 interview with the codirector of its Center for Gender Surgery, who said it was "slightly flexible" on the minimum age of 17 for vaginoplasties.

The scrutiny prompted Boston Children's to quickly change the minimum vaginoplasty age on its website to 18 and claim its video on "gender affirming hysterectomies" didn't apply to minors.

Journalism groups have been conspicuously silent on calls to censor and prosecute journalists who report on the publicly advertised services offered by pediatric gender clinics.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press declined to comment on how these calls differ from "ag-gag" laws that criminalize undercover documentation of industrial farms by animal rights activists, some of which have been struck down as unconstitutional.

Harvard Law's Alejandra Caraballo accused Walsh of "inciting a terror campaign against a hospital and disrupting care" by publicizing what VUMC offers. "He will get people hurt or killed," the Cyberlaw Clinic instructor claimed, tying Walsh to an alleged bomb hoax against Boston Children's.

The threats go both ways. Days after an arrest in the Boston Children's incident, North Dakota police said a driver admitted to fatally mowing down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson because he had sicced his "Republican extremist group" on the driver after a political argument in the street, InForum reported. A highway patrol captain told Fox News there was no evidence of Ellingson's connection to such a group.

The joint letter to Garland claims the alleged threats have "disrupted many other services to families seeking care" but only cites the alleged bomb hoax against Boston Children's, which prevented "a new mother ... from being with her preterm infant," the groups said.

DOJ didn't answer queries for its response to the medical associations' letter and the constitutionality of its requested action. The medical associations didn't answer queries about its requests targeting journalism practices and their similarity to ag-gag legislation.