Hospital Invokes Washington’s “Shield Law” to Resist Texas Attorney General’s Demand for Records
On Dec. 7, Seattle Children’s Hospital filed a lawsuit against the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in Travis County District Court. The legal action follows the OAG’s request for documents related to gender transition policies and related care provided to Texas children.
Seattle Children’s Hospital asserts that the OAG lacks jurisdiction to demand such records and cites Washington’s “Shield Law” as a protective measure against requests from states that restrict or criminalize reproductive and gender-affirming care. According to the hospital, the Shield Law prevents compliance with requests that pertain to protected healthcare services lawful in the state of Washington.
The OAG’s requests, included in the hospital’s lawsuit, comprise a civil investigative demand and a notice of demand for a sworn written statement. The civil demand, dated Nov. 17, alleges investigating “misrepresentations regarding Gender Transitioning and Reassignment Treatments and Procedures and Texas law,” purportedly violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. The hospital was given until Dec. 7 to provide documents identifying medications prescribed to Texas children, the number of Texas children treated, diagnoses for each medication, Texas laboratories conducting tests, and protocols for treating gender-related conditions.
With the same deadline, the second demand requires the hospital to answer questions under oath regarding the specified points. Non-compliance could result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, carrying a $5,000 fine or up to a year of jail confinement.
The hospital argues that the demands should be set aside, contending they are not a bona fide investigation into violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. They allege an improper attempt by the Attorney General to enforce recently enacted Texas SB 14 against Seattle Children’s based on healthcare services provided in the State of Washington.
Furthermore, the hospital’s attorneys claim that such an investigation violates the U.S. Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause, preventing states from enforcing protectionist laws that would disrupt a national marketplace.