Last week, the American Medical Association, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics sent a letter to U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland requesting that the Department of Justice “take swift action to investigate and prosecute” “high-profile users on social media” who have allegedly created a “campaign of disinformation” against children’s hospitals that offer “gender-affirming health care,” leading to threats and harassment, including a bomb-threat hoax at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The letter poses three significant problems. First, the medical associations obscure the radical nature of so-called “gender-affirming care.” The basic facts, which have caused justifiable public outrage, are well-established: according to the medical literature, American doctors have been administering puberty blockers, hormone therapies, and experimental gender surgeries on minors—including double-mastectomies for girls, which involves surgically removing the breasts, and vaginoplasties for boys, which involves surgically removing the penis and turning the tissue into an artificial vagina. Despite what trans activists have insisted, the medical evidence to support these procedures for minors is thin, weak, and contested. Medical authorities in Europe have recently turned against many of these practices.
Second, the AMA, CHA, and AAP provide no evidence, or even a working definition, of “disinformation.” The “high-profile users on social media” would undoubtedly include those of us who have published investigative reporting on radical gender medicine at children’s hospitals, often using original source materials published by the hospitals themselves. Rather than grapple with the facts, however, left-wing activists and medical providers have dismissed them with accusations of “disinformation”—even when journalists have directly quoted their own words. This unsubstantiated accusation of “disinformation” is even more troubling because, in addition to asking the Justice Department for investigations on these vague and undefined grounds, the medical associations also asked technology companies to remove critics of “gender-affirming care” from social media platforms, an essential public forum.
Third, the call to “investigate and prosecute” journalists, activists, and citizens critical of radical gender medicine is wholly contrary to the principles of free speech; if the attorney general were to carry out this request, it would be a violation of the First Amendment and a blatant attempt to criminalize political opposition and intellectual debate. At their founding, these three medical associations embraced the idea that they should be nonpartisan, neutral, and driven by scientific evidence. But by issuing this reckless call to prosecute critics, they have revealed themselves to be hostile to open debate and free scientific inquiry. They are behaving like dangerous ideologues rather than custodians of the public trust.
Ultimately, Attorney General Garland will decide whether to heed the AMA letter’s recommendation and begin prosecuting critics of radical gender medicine. On the surface, it would seem like a fool’s errand: there is no legal basis for prosecuting journalists for engaging in public criticism on a controversial topic. But Garland’s Justice Department has a troubling history of using the power of law enforcement to intimidate political opponents. Last year, using a letter from the National School Boards Association as a pretext, he mobilized the FBI counterterrorism division against conservative parents who were protesting, at school board meetings, about critical race theory in the classroom.
Is Garland following the same playbook with the AMA? To answer that question, I am preparing a public-records request to discover whether the Department of Justice had prior knowledge of the AMA’s campaign to silence journalists, as it did with the National School Boards Association’s campaign to silence parents. Either way, the intention of this gambit is clear: the most powerful medical and political authorities in the nation would like to make experimental gender surgeries a forbidden topic of debate.
Critics of radical gender medicine should remember that we are the underdogs: the AMA has a $460 million annual budget, and the attorney general has the entire federal law enforcement apparatus at his disposal. Still, the only way forward is to hold fast against their malicious intimidation campaign. If they believe that puberty blockers, hormone treatments, and genital surgeries are the best treatments for gender dysphoric minors, let them defend those practices in public—not silence or jail critics.
Originally published in City Journal.