Texas investigates hospital over care for transgender minors

·2 min read

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas hospital's care for transgender minors is being investigated by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said Friday he's seeking evidence of alleged “potentially illegal activity” but did not elaborate.

Texas law does not currently ban gender-affirming care for minors, but Paxton has sought to designate it as child abuse. The hospital investigation in Austin is the latest attempt by Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott, both Republicans, to pursue other legal avenues for restrictions.

The move came against the backdrop of a tense vote scheduled later in the day on a bill to ban gender-affirming care for anyone under 18 in Texas. Republican lawmakers are pushing to make Texas the latest conservative state to crack down on medical care and the rights of transgender people.

In 2022, Paxton released a non-binding legal opinion that labeled certain gender-confirming treatment as child abuse. Abbott followed by ordering the state's child welfare agency to investigate families who were receiving care. A Texas judge halted those state probes last year.

Paxton's new inquiry seeks information from Dell Children’s Hospital about its policies on puberty blockers as well as documents identifying patients it has referred for treatment or counseling. The attorney general’s office issued a request Friday to examine hospital records “to determine whether any state laws have been violated or misrepresentations have been made to parents and patients.”

A recent report by the right-wing group Project Veritas, which bills itself as a news organization, alleged improper medical practices at the hospital and several others around the country.

“This investigation aims to uncover the truth,” Paxton said.

Dell Children’s Medical Group operates the hospital under the non-profit Catholic health system Ascension, and is affiliated with the University of Texas. The medical group said it prohibits surgery and prescribing hormone therapy for treatment of gender dysphoria in children. The group referred to a statement issued April 28 that said it would review any allegations of care that “may have been inconsistent” with those positions.

It also said it would take “appropriate action” if any care was found to be inconsistent with hospital policy. Hospital spokesperson Ann Howser declined to elaborate.

At least 16 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for minors. Three states — Florida, Missouri and Texas — have banned or restricted the care via regulations or administrative orders. On Monday, a judge in Missouri temporarily blocked the state's unique rule that would require adults and children to undergo more than a year of therapy and fulfill other requirements before they could receive gender-affirming treatments.

The Texas Senate has already passed a version of the transgender care ban for minors. A scheduled vote this week in the House was stalled on a technical matter shortly after transgender rights activists disrupted the session with protests from the House gallery.

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Associated Press Writer Acacia Coronado contributed.

Jim Vertuno, The Associated Press