Skip to content Skip to footer

Report: GOP State AGs Abused Authority to Get Trans Patients’ Health Records

Committee Chair Ron Wyden chided Vanderbilt University Medical Center for its "utter betrayal" of transgender patients.

Vanderbilt Childrens Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

A report from the Senate Finance Committee published on Tuesday details how Republican attorneys general from several states abused their authority to obtain the private health care information of transgender patients within — and sometimes beyond — their jurisdictions.

The report specifically describes how Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton all used their statutory oversight powers “to further ideological and political goals” relating to restrictions on the rights of transgender people in their respective states.

The report notes how 24 states in the U.S. have, in recent years, “banned best-practice medical care for transgender youth,” ranging from services relating to mental health, hormone therapy, and, in rare instances, surgical care when needed. Such bans have significantly harmed LGBTQ people, the report adds, and the actions by these attorneys general have further contributed to the harm.

“The proliferation of Attorney General investigations that single-out LGBTQIA+ people, especially in states with LGBTQIA+-hostile political and social climates, further harms this marginalized population,” the report states.

In addition to calling out these individual attorneys general, the report also shows how different hospitals across the country reacted to their actions, with some resisting their efforts and others complying with little to no resistance whatsoever.

Washington University School of Medicine, located in St. Louis, Missouri, for example, refused to share records with AG Bailey in 2023, citing concerns about patients’ privacy and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Seattle Children’s Hospital also refused to comply with subpoenas from Texas AG Paxton, who sought records of transgender children from Texas getting care in Washington. The hospital filed a petition within Texas’s court system to block Paxton’s order in December of last year, and the case is ongoing.

Meanwhile, Tennessee-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) didn’t object at all to AG Skrmetti’s request for information regarding transgender patients. Indeed, over the course of seven months (from late 2022 to mid 2023) VUMC gave Skrmetti around 65,000 pages of documents relating to patient care at the hospital, amounting to the medical records of 82 transgender patients it had served. These patients were not informed that their records were being shared until the end of that timeframe in June 2023.

“When news of the VUMC investigation became public, many patients suffered from suicidal ideation, severe depression, and intense anxiety,” the report points out, noting that those affected by the attorney general’s actions “continue to experience these serious, negative mental health impacts today.”

In a statement discussing the report, Senate Finance Committee chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) blasted the attorneys general for the breach of transgender patients’ private records, particularly those of trans children:

A handful of red-state attorneys general are misusing their authority to terrorize transgender teens in their states, violating patients’ privacy, and causing real harm to vulnerable kids and adults in the process. It’s shameful that law-enforcement officials are choosing to persecute teens trying to live their lives, just to score points with far-right activists.

Wyden also chastised hospitals like VUMC for failing “to protect their patients’ privacy,” describing the actions as being “an utter betrayal of a medical provider’s responsibility.”