Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday announced an investigation into the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, located in Austin, to determine whether it is “unlawfully” providing certain gender-affirming medical care to minors.
“It is now alarmingly common for fringe activists to use their positions in medicine and health care to force experimental, life-altering procedures onto children,” Paxton said in a statement.
“Across the country, there are doctors and health care professionals who appear willing to sacrifice the long-term health of American children, all in service to the increasingly dangerous fad of ‘transgender’ extremism,” he added. “It is deeply disturbing, and there is no place for it in Texas.”
Paxton said there has been “a number of recent reports about potentially illegal activity” at the center and that “this investigation aims to uncover the truth.” While he didn’t provide any details about the reports, the announcement follows a video released last month by Project Veritas, a far-right activist group, in which someone who is allegedly a Dell Children’s employee said patients there start transitioning at 8 and 9 years old.A spokesperson for the center directed NBC News to a statement issued last week that said the center “takes seriously any allegations about the care provided in our clinics.”
“Our organization prohibits surgery and prescribing hormone therapy for the treatment of gender dysphoria for children,” the statement said. “While our pediatric and adolescent medicine clinics do not provide these interventions, we do provide a safe and welcoming place for children to receive other forms of primary care and treatment, including treatment of illness and injuries, well baby visits, and school physicals.”
The center added that it is “conducting a thorough review of this situation.”
“To the extent that care provided at our clinic may have been inconsistent with our organization’s position on this important issue, we intended to take appropriate action,” the statement said.
Paxton’s investigation is the latest attempt in a yearslong effort from Republican state officials to restrict transition-related care for minors.
He did not say what law the hospital would be breaking by providing such care. However, in February 2022, he issued a legal opinion that classified gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse and directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which investigates child abuse claims, to “act accordingly.”
The following day, Gov. Greg Abbott released a directive calling on “licensed professionals” and “members of the general public” to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving gender-affirming medical care.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Service opened nine investigations following the directive and opinion, but two judges put a hold on some of them and blocked new investigations into families who are members of PFLAG, an advocacy group that filed a lawsuit against the state.
Paxton’s announcement also comes after a week of tense protests at the state Capitol in Austin over two bills that would ban transition-related care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, for minors. The bills would also bar public funds from covering the treatments or from going to hospitals or health care professionals who provide the treatments.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people turned out to the Capitol, both in support of and in opposition to one of the bills. Photos and videos from that day show protesters chanting loudly in the Capitol rotunda and multiple incidents between protesters and police. Capitol police eventually cleared the building — a move that multiple activists said hasn’t happened in the last decade they’ve been attending protests and meetings there.
Sofia Sepulveda, the community engagement and advocacy manager of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Texas, said she was banned from the Capitol for a year after she unfurled a banner in the rotunda as part of a rally — something she said she had done many times before.
Sepulveda said that after she arrived at the Capitol Tuesday, she passed the banner through security like she has done before, and told security about her intentions of dropping the banner. She said the officers told her not to drop the banner in the gallery of the House and not to clip it to the railing where she planned to drop it.
When the rally began, she and four other people dropped the banner, which said, “Let trans kids grow up.” After about two minutes, she said, officers approached her group and asked them to pull the banner up, so they did. Then, she said, officers began asking her questions and eventually told her that they were going to give her a warning but that she would be banned from the Capitol for a year. When she asked why, Sepulveda said one of the officers told her, “Those are the rules.” She noted that she was the only Latina trans person holding the banner, and that the four other trans people were all white.
The Texas Department of Public Safety did not immediately return a request for comment regarding Sepulveda’s allegations.
She said she plans to go back within the year, even if it means she will be arrested.
“They’re trying to erase us,” she said. “I refuse to be shut down, I refuse to be erased, and I refuse to be controlled by a state government.”
Democrats delayed debate on the transition-related care ban Tuesday by using a procedural tactic known as a “point of order.” The bill was brought back up for debate Friday, but Democrats delayed it a second time by repeatedly raising points of order.