Ad goes too far claiming Joe Biden promotes surgery for trans teens

Ad goes too far claiming Joe Biden promotes surgery for trans teens

“Joe Biden and the New Left are even promoting surgery for teens and young adults, removing breasts and genitals.”

America First Legal radio ad, October 9, 2022

A radio ad targeting the care of transgender youth began airing in cities across the country this fall — from Spanish-language stations in Corpus Christi, Texas, to sports talk shows in Tennessee to pop radio in Detroit. The ad, paid for by a political advocacy group founded by Stephen Miller, a longtime speechwriter and senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, was deemed so inflammatory by a radio station owner that it was withdrawn from major markets.

America First Legal’s one-minute script, titled “Not Anymore,” accuses President Joe Biden of “pushing radical gender experiments” with hormone therapy.

“Joe Biden and the New Left even promote surgery for teens and young adults, removing breasts and genitals,” the ad claims.

With a male voice speaking to eerie music, the ad says the White House is pushing boys to look more feminine by taking estrogen and girls to grow facial hair by taking testosterone. The ad also suggests Democrats are pushing puberty blockers “to keep kids from growing into normal men and women.”

In August, PolitiFact called a similar statement by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “primarily untrue.” State medical boards, appointed by DeSantis, in early November banned hormone treatments and surgeries for minors. But because the America First Legal ad takes direct aim at Biden administration policy and highlights what has become a hot topic ahead of the midterm elections and in broader cultural debates, we decided to investigate further. before.

First, we checked with America First Legal for the basis of their statements. The group did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls. But his general counsel, Gene Hamilton, issued a statement to Politico regarding a report on the ad: “We believe in biology and believe that confused children should not be permanently harmed by individuals with radical goals.”

An America First Legal document that was filed by Detroit radio station WDRQ-FM with the Federal Communications Commission and obtained by KHN and PolitiFact revealed more specific justifications for the ad’s claim.

It cites a two-page explainer published by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs in March 2022. The first two paragraphs explain that gender-affirming care “consists of a range of services which may include medical, surgical, mental health and non-medical services” for transgender people, and that “early gender-affirming care is essential to overall health and well-being because it allows the child or adolescent to focus on social transitions.

The document appears to communicate that gender-affirming care is important for transgender and non-binary children, but makes no specific endorsement of the surgeries.

What exactly is White House policy?

The Biden administration was asked about the announcement during a White House briefing, and spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said simply, “Transgender rights are indeed human rights.”

HHS declined to explain its stance on gender-affirming surgeries, but released a statement to KHN describing what spokesperson Adam Sarvana called “a disturbing wave of sweeping attacks on some of the most vulnerable in our country”.

“The Biden-Harris administration trusts parents, but unfortunately we are seeing interference in people’s medical decisions that puts potentially life-saving care at risk,” he said.

The message suggests unequivocal support for gender-affirming care, especially to address the high rate of suicide among trans teens. A White House fact sheet says the administration “confirms the positive impact of gender-affirming care on the mental health of young people.” The White House defines access to care as a civil rights issue for transgender people.

The White House statements largely echo those of major medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. The professional association representing 67,000 pediatricians has also been accused of promoting gender-affirming care, but Dr Moira Szilagyi, president of the AAP, pushed back against what she calls “extremists”.

“Critics of our gender-affirming care policy misrepresent it as pushing young people to undergo medical or surgical treatment; in fact, the policy calls for the opposite: a holistic, collaborative, and compassionate approach to care with no end goal or agenda,” she wrote in a blog post in August.

What about guidelines?

The America First Legal ad specifically points to the issue of surgery for teens and young adults. This, in itself, is complicated.

Guidelines from the World Professional Association of Transgender Health were updated in September and expand genital surgery benefits for minors. But such surgeries are rare. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which has been at the center of a firestorm over its pediatric transgender care clinic, said it has never performed genital surgery on a minor.

Breast removal is also more acceptable for older teens under new WPATH guidelines. The numbers have increased in recent years, but remain relatively low compared to hormone therapy, which is a much more common treatment for adolescents. Analysis of insurance claims data by Reuters found that ‘upper surgery’ – which refers to the removal of breasts – is increasing every year, but fewer than 300 minors a year undergo operations.

Dr. Michele Hutchison, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, laughed off the idea of ​​the Biden administration pushing such surgery.

“The only people I’ve met that push it are the patients,” said Hutchison, who also cared for transgender youth in Arkansas. “If anything, it’s usually us as medical professionals saying, ‘Hey, let’s get a beat. Let’s stop and think about it.

Hutchison said she never recommended genital surgery for a minor.

Does politics equal promotion?

The truth of the announcement hinges on whether the White House is promoting or pushing gender-affirming care. What concerns Dr. Michael O’Brien, a South Carolina pediatrician and LGBTQ+ advocate, is that the documents used to substantiate the announcement read as “objective information.”

“The HHS document does not promote or push any medical treatment as much as it describes it in technical terms,” he said.

Even leaders of the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine, who are utterly skeptical of accelerating gender-affirming care, said “it’s not accurate to say the Biden administration is pushing these interventions on children”.

“Presumably, children don’t read administration statements endorsing gender-affirming care,” a company spokesperson said. “We find the politicization of transgender health deeply problematic and unnecessary. Unfortunately, much of the United States has taken a politicized approach, on both sides of the debate. »

Our decision

The ad reads, “Joe Biden and the New Left are even promoting surgery for teens and young adults, removing breasts and genitals.” Experts in the field, LGBTQ+ advocates and even critics of gender-affirming care say they find the message misleading.

Some news outlets, such as Florida-based Beasley Media Group, pulled the ad, noting in internal emails published in FCC filings that the company’s attorneys found “insufficient substantiation to support claims.” claims” and that the spot is “not in the best interest of our company and/or listeners. Some of the commercials were also pulled by iHeartMedia stations in Pittsburgh.

The Biden policy specifically lists surgery among the “range of services” that should be available and notes that “early gender-affirming care is crucial.” But the announcement omits other types of care – such as mental health services – that are seen as the starting point for caring for this at-risk population.

The main factual problem with advertising is the use of the words ‘promote’ and ‘push’. Ensuring a treatment option is available does not mean pushing it, and presenting it as such is hyperbolic.

We rate this claim as false.


Federal Communications Commission/Katz Media Group, filing including advertising rationale from America First Legal, accessed 27 October 2022

Federal Communications Commission/Katz Media Group filing regarding cancellation of ads in Philadelphia and Detroit, accessed 27 October 2022

Office of Population Affairs and US Department of Health and Human Services, “Gender-Affirming Care and Young People” Guidance, March 2022

Telephone Interview, Dr. Michele Hutchison, Division Chief of Endocrinology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, October 27, 2022

Direct message interview with Dr. Michael O’Brien, pediatrician-in-training at the Medical University of South Carolina, November 3, 2022

Phone interview, Aurea Bolaños Perea of ​​LGBTQ+ advocacy group COLOR Latina in Colorado, October 27, 2022

Blog post by American Academy of Pediatrics President Moira Szilagyi, August 10, 2022

Email statement from Adam Sarvana, HHS Assistant Secretary of Health Communications Director, October 27, 2022

PolitiFact, “‘They literally cut off young children’s private parts'”, August 10, 2022

Endocrine Society, “Gender Dysphoria/Gender Incongruence Guidelines Resources,” September 1, 2017

World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Standards of Care, 2022

Email response, Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine, October 24, 2022

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