Texas attorney general investigating second children's hospital for transition-related care

ByEleanor Klibanoff, The Texas Tribune
Saturday, May 20, 2023
Texas Children's Hospital under investigation by the attorney general
Gender-affirming care is an umbrella term for the treatment of gender dysphoria, or the discomfort that comes when someone's gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth

HOUSTON, Texas -- Attorney General Ken Paxton is investigating Texas Children's Hospital in Houston for providing gender transition-related care to minors, his office announced Friday. This is the second such investigation in as many weeks, as the Legislature moves to formally ban gender-affirming care for minors.

Gender-affirming care is an umbrella term for the treatment of gender dysphoria, or the discomfort that comes when someone's gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender-affirming care ranges from "socially transitioning" - using different pronouns or dressing differently - to puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgical interventions.

RELATED: Bill banning puberty blockers, hormone treatments for trans kids sent to Texas governor

The Texas Legislature recently passed a bill that would bar minors from receiving that medical care, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and related surgery - though such surgery is rare for minors. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will sign the bill, and it is expected to go into effect in September.

But even before those treatments are formally banned, Paxton has used the might of his office to try and stop hospitals from providing this care. Two weeks ago, Paxton announced a similar investigation into Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, citing allegations from a hidden camera video investigation from the conservative activist group Project Veritas.

The same day Paxton announced the investigation, parents began receiving calls from Dell Children's, telling them their appointments were canceled and their doctors had parted ways with the adolescent health clinic.

Now, Paxton's office is looking into Texas Children's, the largest children's hospital in the country. Last year, Texas Children's announced it would stop providing certain transition-related care, but this week, City Journal, published by the conservative Manhattan Institute, reported that the hospital had resumed those treatments.

In a statement, Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee called for an investigation into how City Journal obtained the medical records at the center of its article, and said Texas Children's should fire or terminate the contract of anyone found to have leaked medical records in violation of federal patient privacy laws.

"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," Menefee said. "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 Senate Bill 14, which bans gender-affirming care."

The article does not claim that Texas Children's is doing anything in violation of current state law, but rather that they are being secretive about providing these treatments. Nonetheless, Paxton said his office was investigating to determine if Texas Children's is "actively engaging in illegal behavior and performing 'gender transitioning' procedures on children."

A spokesperson for Texas Children's Hospital said in a statement that their "healthcare professionals have always and will continue to prioritize the care of our patients within the bounds of the law."

In his press release, Paxton also resurfaced his claim that it constitutes child abuse to provide a minor with gender-affirming care. Last year, Paxton issued a nonbinding legal opinion, which Abbott used as pretext to direct the state's child welfare agency to investigate parents of trans teenagers. The Texas Supreme Court has said the agency erred by allowing Paxton or Abbott to set agency policy.

Those investigations are on hold while litigation proceeds.

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