Letter signed by 1,500 people urges Children’s Hospital to oppose proposed gender care ban

Advocates argue silence is a ‘striking revocation’ of hospital’s values

By: - February 6, 2023 5:20 pm

Millions of people are expected to lose their Medicaid eligibility in the coming  months as states return the programs to pre-COVID status. The loss of that revenue is expected to hurt struggling rural hospitals. Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This report has been updated to include comment from Children’s Hospital.

More than 1,500 people as of Monday signed onto a letter urging the Omaha Children’s Hospital and Medical Center board of directors to oppose legislation that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors in Nebraska.

The bill would also ban medical providers from referring patients to doctors who perform gender-affirming care for minors and would prohibit organizations that provide such care from receiving state funds.

The letter was started by a group of parents, who began circulating the online petition Thursday. They contend that Legislative Bill 574, introduced by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, could harm transgender youth in Nebraska, according to Denise Powell of Omaha, whose children have been patients of the hospital.

More than 1,300 people signed onto the letter by Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon, it had more than 1,500 signatures, Powell said. The letter was sent to the hospital’s board of directors. 

Those signing the letter were not being identified publicly to protect their privacy, she said.

The Nebraska Examiner was able to review the list, however. Letter signers included nearly a dozen people who identified themselves as parents (some whose children have been patients of Children’s Hospital), elected officials, five current or retired teachers, a handful of students who said they would be affected by the legislation and more than 60 health care professionals, including doctors and nurses.

Powell said in an interview Monday she was surprised Children’s Hospital was not speaking out against LB 574 for what she said amounts to a “disinformation campaign” against gender-affirming care.

“It’s really, really disheartening that our legislators would be spending so much time actively trying to create more barriers for kids who are already vulnerable in our state,” Powell said.

Children’s Hospital said in an emailed statement Tuesday it will not take a position on the bill, noting it provides “very little clinical care” in the legislation’s specified areas.

The statement explained the hospital also does not perform gender-transition surgeries and has had “only a small handful of cases at any given time” that involve puberty suppression for transgender issues.

“It’s important to note that hormone therapy, which is used in many forms for different medical concerns, has been and remains legal,” the statement reads. “… Children’s strives to provide the very best care to children, following all best practices within the law, now and into the future.”

Kauth’s bill, which is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday, includes 22 co-signers.

Children’s Hospital previously came out in support of gender-affirming care for Nebraska youth, including tweeting in July 2022 to foster “a culture that puts people first, ensuring all individuals are respected and valued.”

“We strive to recruit and support a diverse workforce to meet the healthcare needs of children in our region,” the tweet reads.

Monday’s letter states, “So we, as the families of your patients, as community members who care about all of our youth, are calling on you to adhere to your mission and your values and urge you to publicly oppose LB574 and direct your legislative advocacy efforts toward ensuring that all of our kids get the care you have promised us and for which we have chosen and supported you.”

Children’s Hospital did not respond to requests by email and phone Monday seeking comment. 

The national Children’s Hospital Association, which includes the Omaha hospital, said in March 2022 it supports transgender children, youth and their families to receive comprehensive, gender-affirming and developmentally appropriate health care.

“Research shows gender-affirming care improves the health and overall well-being of children and youth when families and medical professionals work together in making health care decisions,” the association said then.

A press release about the letter Monday encouraged Children’s Hospital “to reconsider its silence” and reaffirm its commitment to improving youth mental health access in part by testifying against Kauth’s bill. 

“It is our sincerest hope that Children’s Hospital remembers its promise to this community and finds the necessary courage to oppose LB574,” the release continues. “To fail in this would represent a striking revocation of all that Children’s Hospital has so far purported to value.”

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C., and has reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan.