Medical Institutions Are Targeted by AG For Gender-Affirming Care

Attorney General Ken Paxton is now setting his attention to local Texas hospitals after reports from conservative groups claiming they are providing gender-affirming care.
Attorney General Ken Paxton is now setting his attention to local Texas hospitals after reports from conservative groups claiming they are providing gender-affirming care. Screenshot
As if targeting the access to gender-affirming care for minors and the physicians practicing it in the Texas Legislature wasn’t enough, Attorney General Ken Paxton is now going a step beyond: launching investigations into the institutions providing it.

Although Senate Bill 14, proposed legislation that would bar patients under 18 from receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy and penalize the doctors distributing these medications passed both the House and the Senate, this bill has not yet been signed by Governor Greg Abbott and made intolaw.

Paxton announced last Friday that he was launching a second of two on-going investigations – this time against Texas Children’s Hospital – to determine if they were providing this care to their child and adolescent patients.

Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin was the first to attract Paxton’s efforts after the attorney general received claims about it from a far-right activist group.

Texas Children’s Hospital is now being investigated by the state after medical records were leaked by a New-York based conservative group, the Manhattan Institute, in an article published by the organization.
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Although Attorney General Ken Paxton referred to this care as illegal if provided, it is not currently considered so by state law.
According to Houston-based attorney Romy Kaplan, who is representing several families involved in the breach, families affected are already acting against the leak.

As the investigation into who initiated the leak is still in its early stages, there is no way of knowing the extent of the breach or how many children’s’ medical records were released without authorization.

Kaplan released a statement concerning the breach in which he describes it as a “violation against children” and says that “health care providers are required to maintain the confidentiality of patient records under State and Federal law.”

It is unclear at this time if Texas Children’s Hospital staff or operations will be affected like at Dell Children’s adolescent medicine center, which announced that the staff who previously worked the clinic would be leaving following the launch of the investigation.

A Texas Children’s Hospital spokesperson issued this statement in response to the investigation:

“At Texas Children’s Hospital, our mission is to provide high-quality care for all patients throughout the policy debate surrounding gender medicine, our healthcare professionals have always and will continue to prioritize the care of our patients within the bounds of the law.
Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee questioned the legal validity of Paxton’s claims of this “unlawful activity” occurring at these institutions amid current law, which does not outlaw it.

"This illicit release of medical records puts children and their families at risk, and swift action must be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. I have spoken with representatives at Texas Children’s Hospital and understand that the hospital will fully investigate how this happened and notify all impacted families if their information was released. I expect they will fully disclose what they find to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. If a hospital employee leaked these medical records, they must be fired. If it was a hospital vendor, their contract must be terminated.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this happened as the Texas Legislature pushes bills to ban trans kids from receiving gender-affirming care, and elected officials in Austin push disturbing and false talking points that demonize LGBTQ+ families. If you care about Texas kids, you should be appalled that someone would be illicitly disclosing their medical records.

The Attorney General has used this violation of the personal information of minors to launch a legally baseless investigation, erroneously claiming that providing gender-affirming care violates Texas law. He is wrong. If providing this type of care for children were currently illegal, we wouldn’t see Republican legislators spending all their waking hours trying to pass SB14, which bans gender-affirming care."

Pam Thompson, a local advocate and activist for LGBTQ issues, said investigations like these may continue to increase depending on how Senate Bill 14 holds up after it is likely signed into law.

“I just don’t understand the state’s compelling interest and I’m concerned what group or institution are they going to go for next,” Thompson said.

Thompson works with families who have transgender children and said efforts like these are making it difficult for them to feel like they have a single place or person to turn to.

She said it will likely lead families to be more secretive, less open with new people they encounter and isolate them because they won't know who they can trust.

These investigations also impact the healthcare providers at the hospitals, some may feel like retiring, others that may be closer to the end of their careers may want to try to challenge what is happening, Thompson said.

“It’s very disturbing, the same people that didn’t give a flip about public health issues just a couple years ago – who didn’t want to enforce vaccinations for public health concerns – want to now tell parents that they’re not raising their kids and taking care of them right,” Thompson said.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.