Fashion Emergency Room: Advocates Protest Abercrombie & Fitch Name on Ohio Children's Hospital

A children's advocacy group wants to keep a children's hospital from putting clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch's name on a new emergency room.

Abercrombie, known for its racy marketing campaigns aimed at teenagers, has pledged $10 million toward the construction of the emergency department at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.

The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood on Tuesday urged the hospital to drop any plans to put Abercrombie's name on the project, pointing to research that has shown a link between sexualized images of teens in the media and mental health problems in girls.

The advocacy group made its position public in a letter to the hospital Tuesday and signed by about 70 pediatricians and academics from around the U.S.

"Given this company's appalling history of targeting children with sexualized marketing and clothing, no public health institution should be advertising Abercrombie & Fitch," the letter states.

Major financial supporters of the hospital always are recognized with wall plaques or some other kind of honor, but officials haven't determined if Abercrombie's name will appear on signs in and around the emergency department to open in 2012, said Jon Fitzgerald, president of the hospital's fundraising arm. The hospital previously has referred to the project as the Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency Department and Trauma Center.

Fitzgerald had no comment on the advocacy group's letter, other than to say it will be discussed internally and that the hospital appreciates Abercrombie's philanthropy. The advocacy group is not asking the hospital to give back the money.

"We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the hospital and pleased to help secure its bright future," Abercrombie spokesman Tom Lennox said in a statement.

Last year, the hospital renamed itself after Columbus-based Nationwide Insurance in exchange for a donation of $50 million over 10 years. Other corporations have lent their names to children's hospitals, including toy company Mattel Inc., which supports Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA in Los Angeles.

McDonald's Corp., the world's biggest fast-food chain, agreed in January to stop advertising on student report cards at a school district in Orlando, Fla., after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood complained.

Abercrombie & Fitch, based in the Columbus suburb of New Albany, has earned a reputation for risque catalogs and promotional photography featuring scantily clothed models.

In 2003, the company halted publication of its seven-year-old A&F Quarterly catalog amid complaints by conservative and feminist groups about sexually suggestive photographs. The company did not give a reason for ending the catalog's run.

"Abercrombie & Fitch is well known for pushing the envelope in terms of teen sexuality, and to have an emergency room named after them is ludicrous," said Dr. Victor Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico, who signed the letter faxed to Nationwide Children's Hospital.