CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Democratic candidate for South Carolina’s First Congressional District Dr. Annie Andrews has responded to allegations made by her opponent Nancy Mace.

In a statement shared Wednesday, Andrews said she is taking an immediate unpaid leave from her job as a pediatrician at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital “in order to protect myself and my colleagues.”

“I knew politics would be ugly but I never thought I’d see the day when my own congresswoman would accuse me- a pediatrician for over a decade- of ‘child abuse,'” Andrews wrote. “And while I refuse to back down to these abhorrent attacks and her shameful election strategy, I have been forced to take necessary precautions to protect me and my family.”

The move comes in the wake of claims that Andrews supports “gender-affirming therapy and surgery on young kids” which Mace called “child abuse.”

“I do not support gender-affirming surgery for anyone under 18- nor does my hospital perform those procedures,” Andrews continued in her statement. “What I support is evidence-based medical care, with parental consent, for teens struggling with gender identity issues.”

Andrews called the attacks “vicious and disgusting” and accused Mace of playing political games.

“Adults like Nancy Mace, who use our kids as punching bags and pawns in their cynical political games, should be ashamed,” she continued. “Her vicious and disgusting attacks against me and LGBTQ kids puts them at an increased risk of targeted attacks and self-harm behaviors.”

In addition to taking a leave of absence, Andrews said she plans to increase personal security and explore legal options.

Mace’s campaign gave News 2 the following statement:

“If our opponent wants to cry crocodile tears over Nancy Mace standing up for children, her skin isn’t thick enough to fight for Lowcountry values in Congress,” Campaign Manager Austin McCubbin said. “Right now the Congresswoman is focused on doing her job preparing her district for a potential hurricane, not making cheap political statements.”

You can read Annie Andrews’s full statement here.