AUSTIN (KXAN) — When parents Tom Crawford and Rev. Joanna Crawford brought their child to the Dell Children’s Medical Group Adolescent Medicine clinic for long-term post-cancer care, it was “awesome across the board.”

Their child developed bone tumors at six months old and again when she was 3 years old. Doctors used chemotherapy and radiation therapy to destroy those, but the treatments damaged the Crawford’s child reproductive system. According to her parents, she now requires treatment as though she was post-menopausal.

“As a teen, she’s already considered to be a long term survivor,” Joanna said. “When your child at age 16 is being told, you may be going into menopause during the next year, you know, that’s difficult.”

“They were really focused on talking to her and working with her, which I appreciated,” Tom said.

However, this level of care no longer remains an option for the Crawfords.

Ascension Seton released a statement Saturday:

Dell Children’s Medical Group Adolescent Medicine clinic has not closed. We are working with our staff, families, and other providers to ensure our patients’ safety and make sure we are helping families connect with the appropriate healthcare services. While the physicians who previously staffed the clinic will be departing, the clinic remains open and supported by other physicians within Dell Children’s Medical Group. We continue to be advocates for the best possible care and treatment for children in Central Texas.

Ascension Seton

KXAN has asked for further clarification about the physicians’ “departure,” as well as reasons for the change.

Up in the Air

Tom said that he received a call from Ascension Seton on Friday morning, telling him that his child’s doctor was “no longer going to be with the clinic” and that they would transfer his daughter’s file to a provider not affiliated with Dell Children’s.

The worker who he spoke to did not know who the new provider would be, however; just that the new provider would contact the Crawfords.

“That was when it kind of came out that it wasn’t just that one doctor was leaving the clinic, it was that all of the doctors affiliated with the Adolescent Medicine Clinic were leaving. And so obviously, that was concerning, to say the least,” Tom said.

Tom asked why this was happening, but the worker could not or would not tell them.

“The doctor that our daughter had been seeing was so good, and so good at talking, not only with us, but talking with her and helping her, trying to find out what it is that that she wanted,” said Joanna, who noted that the decision left her with disappointment and anger.

Gender affirming care

The Crawfords’ daughter has received hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for around eight years as part of her long-term care. HRT is frequently prescribed for people undergoing menopause, allowing them to supplement their bodies reduced levels of estrogen.

Joanna said that her daughter made the connection between her care and similar care used by gender diverse people: it is gender affirming care.

“She was mad about it happening. She’s concerned, you know, about for her own care about what comes next,” Joanna said.

A 2018 editorial published in “Case Reports in Women’s Health” claims that HRT is “the cornerstone of treatment” and necessary until the typical age for starting menopause (around 45 to 55 years old).

“There may be parents who just, you know, they’re not anti-trans, they just don’t think that any of this applies to them. And quite possibly does,” said Joanna, speculating that the physicians’ departure was tied to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s announced investigation.

On May 5, Paxton announced an investigation to “uncover whether ‘gender transitioning’ procedures were unlawfully performed on minor children” at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

KXAN has reached out to the Office of the Attorney General for further information about these reports.

No update from hospital, Attorney General

On Tuesday, KXAN reached back out to Ascension Seton to find out if doctors left on their own or were forced out of the clinic but did not get a response.

We also asked if all patients had since been contacted and accommodated with new providers.

Emily Whitt with the Texas Freedom Network, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, said investigations like the one launched by the Attorney General could have ripple effects on children’s medicine across the state.

“I think when we pass laws like this, we keep talented, competent, passionate doctors from wanting to work in Texas because of their ability to live up to their oath. To serve their patients is becoming illegal,” Whitt said.