Health Care, Higher Education
OU Health suggests hysterectomies for males?
November 12, 2021
In recent tweets, the official account for OU Health Services has indicated the organization will ignore state law regarding binary (male/female) listing of gender on birth certificates and that the organization may even direct biological males to doctors for hysterectomies.
Those tweets follow numerous incidents at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine (OUCOM) that critics view as placing politics ahead of valid medical care.
In a recent executive order, Gov. Kevin Stitt noted that the Oklahoma State Department of Health recently began issuing birth certificates that include a “nonbinary” designation along with “male” or “female.” Stitt noted that practice, begun as part of a lawsuit settlement that was entered into by the agency without notification to or approval from the governor’s office, violated state law regarding birth certificates.
Stitt’s executive order mandated that the Oklahoma State Department of Health cease issuing birth certificates that violate state law.
In response to news of Stitt’s executive order, OU Health Services tweeted, “Our patients can identify as exactly who they are. Period.”
When one male Twitter user quipped in response, “I identify as female today so I need to schedule a hysterectomy,” the OU Health Services account shot back, “We don't perform surgery here, but we will always be happy to refer you to an OBGYN.”
OU Health Services’ action did not go unnoticed.
“It’s outrageous,” said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “They should not be using a public Twitter handle to make a political statement that 1) the vast majority of Oklahomans disagree with, but 2) has nothing to do with their core mission.”
Echols noted OU Health Services’ use of taxpayer resources for political purposes could have repercussions beyond adding to online snark.
“Because it’s a political statement and has nothing to do with their core mission at OU, there’s a strong argument it puts their tax exemption at risk,” Echols said.
The idea that medical officials should base treatment on how patients choose to present themselves rather than biological reality is controversial and has been associated with at least one high-profile tragedy.
In 2019, a man arrived at a hospital with severe abdominal pains. Because the individual was obese and had recently stopped taking blood-pressure medicine, a nurse mistakenly concluded that it was not a medical emergency. In reality, the individual was a transgender man—a biological female who presented as a male—who was pregnant. The event ended in stillbirth.
Dr. Daphna Stroumsa of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, told USA Today that the individual “was rightly classified as a man” in medical records, but “that classification threw us off from considering his actual medical needs.”
The Twitter incident is the latest in a line of actions taken by OU officials that have injected what critics view as political performance into medical practice.
The Oklahoma Health Center has sponsored workshops on “Everyday Bias for Healthcare Professionals” and “2S-LGBTQ+ Community Informed Simulation.” The Internal Medicine department has sponsored a “Global Health and Social Justice Program” that “aims to educate internal medicine residents on major global health issues, social justice, and healthcare inequities.” And the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine’s Pediatrics Department provides resources that include the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Words Matter: AAP Guidance on Inclusive, Anti-biased Language.” That guide recommends that pediatricians avoid using language that assumes “heterosexual orientation or cisgender identity” and instead refer to a “birthing parent” or “breast/chestfeeding parent.”
All members of the OU Board of Regents were contacted seeking comment for this article. As of publication, none had responded.
Instead, the university sent a statement attributed to no specific individual at the college.
“The governor’s executive order applies to the Oklahoma State Department of Health as they are the exclusive state authority in issuing birth certificates,” the OU statement said. “Of course, we do not make the law, and while the governor’s executive order is not applicable to the university in this instance, the university will always follow executive orders and the laws of the state.”
While OU has received strong criticism, OU Health Services has also received at least implied support from one statewide officeholder, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, who is pursuing the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to oppose Stitt in his reelection effort next year.
When Stitt first announced his opposition to issuance of “nonbinary” birth certificates, he said, “I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period.” Hofmeister condemned that stance in an Oct. 22 tweet, calling Stitt’s views an “example of divisive leadership and chaos.” In an Oct. 24 Facebook post, Hofmeister claimed Stitt had a “pattern of pandering to extremism.” And in a Nov. 11 tweet responding to Stitt’s executive order on birth certificates, Hofmeister again accused Stitt of “driving our state into the ground and using extremism to divide us.”
“All Oklahomans have value regardless of what’s on a birth certificate,” Hofmeister wrote. “Most of us get it.”
For others, OU Health Services’ decision to use its social media feed to make political statements adds to growing concern that the university has gone off the rails and is no longer a place where many students feel welcome.
“About a year ago, I spoke to the College Republicans, and I had many people come up to me afterwards and talk to me about how oppressive they felt OU’s campus was to anyone that had any type of a conservative bent,” Echols said. “I graduated from OU, and I had a hard time hearing that about my alma mater. When things like that are coming from an official OU handle, I start to understand how they must feel. OU needs to stay out of politics.”
[For more articles about higher education in Oklahoma, visit AimHigherOK.com.]