On Friday, QueerMed, a telehealth clinic based in Georgia, disclosed that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had requested private information regarding transgender patients from Texas who used its services to access gender-affirming care.
“Ken Paxton is sending out subpoenas for transgender patient data across state lines,” transgender activist Erin Reed said on social media. “Republicans are attempting to investigate and potentially arrest people across state lines for providing trans care.”
Texas is among nearly half of the states in the country that limit gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Despite intense community pushback against the state’s legislative attacks on transgender rights, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed the gender-affirming care ban into law in June. This immediately triggered a lawsuit from the ACLU of Texas, along with national LGBTQ+ legal organizations including Lambda Legal and the Transgender Law Center, who sued the state over the ban in July in hopes of blocking the law from going into effect in September. However, in August, the attorney general’s office filed an appeal immediately pausing a lower court’s injunction, allowing the ban to go into effect while the legal battle advanced through the courts.
Transgender youth and their families are therefore forced to make an impossible choice: leave the state to access care, move out of state permanently, or be forcibly detransitioned.
“As a parent, I don’t want to see my child suffer and don’t understand why the state government would try to strip away my ability to seek the best possible health care for my child,” Lazaro Loe, a plaintiff in the lawsuit and father of a transgender girl, said in a statement. “Her happiness, health, autonomy, and independence would be stripped away by this cruel legislation; and we likely would be forced to leave our home here in Texas.”
While QueerMed stopped providing services to transgender youth from Texas after the state’s gender-affirming care ban was signed into law, the request from Paxton demands patient information up to January 1, 2022, before the ban went into effect. This is at least the second known instance of Paxton requesting private information from an out-of-state clinic, though Karen Loewy, an attorney with Lambda Legal, confirmed that “a handful” of other organizations have received similar requests for medical records.
In November, Paxton sent a request to Seattle Children’s Hospital demanding information regarding the number of patients seen from Texas, the medication prescribed, and the diagnoses administered. QueerMed confirmed that the request was sent to them at the same time, but that it received the civil investigative demand in December because of mail delays.
The Seattle Children’s Hospital sued in response to protect its patients’ information, arguing that producing such information would violate federal and state health privacy laws, citing the state’s “shield law” passed in April. This law protects providers and patients from similarly invasive requests from states that restrict gender-affirming care and abortion. However, Georgia, where QueerMed is located, has no such law on the books and, in fact, passed a gender-affirming care ban in March. It is not clear how QueerMed has responded to the attorney general’s request.
“It’s hard not to see this as part and parcel of the AG’s scorched-earth approach to persecuting trans kids and their parents who are being forced to undertake travel outside of Texas to get their kids the medically necessary care they need,” Loewy said.