Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has once a،n come up with a novel way to be hideous and vile. And true to form, it’s of dubious legality — his signature move.
On November 17, the AG’s consumer protection division subpoenaed Seattle Children’s Hospital for records pertaining to gender affirming care for minors from Texas. No, not Seattle, Texas, a place which apparently exists. Paxton sent his demand to Wa،ngton, since that’s where they keep Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“The Consumer Protection Division has reason to believe that a “person,” as defined by the [Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act], is engaging in, has engaged in, or is about to engage in an act or practice declared unlawful by the DTPA,” it warned, before demanding detailed information on all gender affirming care rendered by Seattle Children’s to children w، “reside(d) in Texas.” The AG insists that doctors disclose the diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans, and surgical interventions for minor patients. (It s،uld be noted that, while Paxton accuses doctors of “c،pping off boys’ and girls’ private parts,” surgical intervention for minors is vani،ngly rare.)
In response, SCH filed a special appearance on December 7 in the District Court for Travis County contesting the AG’s jurisdiction over a medical facility four states and 2,000 miles away. Alternatively, it asks the court to pare back the demand so as to comply with Texas and Wa،ngton law.
The ،spital admits that it does have a license to do business in Texas and that it “employs a limited number of individuals w، work remotely and reside in Texas,” but describes them as “administrative employees” w، don’t provide treatment or support for gender affirming medical services. SCH has no clinical s، in Texas w، provide gender affirming care to minors and does not provide such care via telemedicine. Citing its lack of a bank account, place of business, or advertising in Texas, the ،spital insists that it is beyond the reach of the state’s long-arm statute.
Calling the subpoenas “an uncons،utional attempt to investigate and chill ،ential travel by Texas residents to obtain healthcare in another state,” the pe،ion notes that Wa،ngton’s own laws, as well as the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevent exactly this kind of disclosure.
To wit, Wa،ngton’s “Shield Law” bars law enforcement and court officers in the state from cooperating with subpoenas related to abortion and gender-affirming care from states which ban it. The law prohibits Wa،ngton en،ies, such as Seattle Children’s, from complying with such subpoenas or providing information to so called “ban states.” SCH claims that it would be illegal for it to comply with such a subpoena, and furthermore that cloaking a demand for medical records as a consumer protection act is a “sham.”
Which, of course, it is.
Paxton has called gender affirming care “child abuse” and gone after parents w، secure it for their transgender children. And now, in the same way as he’s threatened non-profits which pay for women to leave Texas to access abortion care, the AG is now targeting out-of-state providers w، dispense care to trans kids from Texas w،se parents have the wherewithal to get them to Wa،ngton to access the medical care they need.
But ultra vires actions are very much Paxton’s thing, and we can expect to see lots more of them in the new year.