Texas Governor Abbott Directs Protective Services to Label Parents of Transgender Kids ‘Abusers’

© REUTERS / Lucas JacksonTexas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 4, 2018
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S., May 4, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.02.2022
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate transgender children’s gender-affirming health care, which the governor has labeled as “abusive.” This comes just months after legislation SB 8 allowed public citizens to sue abortion providers should they perform the procedure.
Governor Abbott wrote in a letter on Tuesday confirming the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion that a “number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures” will be considered child abuse under Texas law.
The Texas governor then directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.”
The letter from Abbott follows Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s opinion from Monday that the gender-affirming medical care should be considered child abuse under law, and while an opinion from an attorney does not immediately result in any changes to a law, it may affect how the law is enforced.
It is worth noting that hormone treatments for children are not typically considered until the child is at least 16 years old, and gender reassignment surgery is most often only considered for those aged 18 and older.
Paxton issued the opinion as a second attempt to persecute transgender youth and their families after the Texas legislature shot down Senator Charles Perry’s bill last year, which wanted to make transgender health care a felony.
Texas Senate Bill 1646 proposed that parents who support their transgender children should be sentenced to prison anywhere from two to ten years, while their child is put in foster care. Brian Klosterboer, who is staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said of SB 1646, which is now dead, that it was “part of a pattern of discrimination that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and others have tried to use trans Texans as a punching bag.”
Klosterboer says Paxton’s opinion from Monday, as well as Abbott’s Tuesday letter, “cannot change Texas law nor usurp the constitutional rights of Texas families.”
“​​But they spread fear and misinformation and could spur false reporting of child abuse at a time when DFPS is already facing a crisis in our state’s foster care system,” Klosterboer stated. “The law is clear that parents, guardians, and doctors can provide transgender youth with treatment in accordance with prevailing standards of care. Any parent or guardian who loves and supports their child and is taking them to a licensed health care provider is not engaging in child abuse.”
In a move which eerily mirrors the Texas Heartbeat Act, Governor Abbott is also calling on those he considers “licensed professionals,” as well as public citizens, to report parents of transgender children to state authorities if they believe the child is receiving gender-affirming care. He added that the state law will penalize those who fail to report transgender youth health care as criminals.
LGBTQ advocates are saying the dramatic move by both Abbott and Paxton are political distractions.
Adri Perez, a strategist for LGBTQ equality at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, says Paxton is trying to distract from scandals swirling around his campaign. Those include his trial for a 2015 indictment on charges of securities fraud, and a criminal investigation conducted by the FBI that alleges the attorney general is guilty of crimes involving bribery and abuse of office.
“There’s no court in Texas or the entire country that has ever found that gender-affirming care can constitute child abuse,” Pèrez said.
The White House condemned the move by Abbott. “Conservative officials in Texas and other states across the country should stop inserting themselves into health care decisions that create needless tension between pediatricians and their patients. No parent should face the agony of a politician standing in the way of accessing life-saving care for their child,” the deputy principal press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Wednesday.
Advocates of LGBTQ rights who condemned the governor’s efforts as fear-mongering and riddled with misinformation, note that several medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association, all say that gender-affirming care is a medical necessity for transgender youth based on decades of research.
Research by the American Psychological Association shows that transgender youth who are unable to undergo gender-affirming health care are subject to higher rates of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-injurious behaviors, suicidality, substance use, homelessness and eating disorders.
This is not Texas’ first attack on transgender children, either. In October 2021, the Texas House approved a bill which targeted transgender student-athletes. House Bill 25 makes it so that transgender student-athletes would have to compete on sports teams that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate.
"Excluding transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable youth at serious risk of mental and emotional harm," Adri Perez said in response to HB 25.
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