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Texas Governor Orders Family Services Agency to Investigate Gender-Affirming Medical Care as Child Abuse

Gov. Greg Abbott

Gov. Greg Abbott.

Following an opinion from the Texas attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s family services agency to investigate gender-affirming medical care as child abuse.

“As OAG Opinion No. KP-0401 makes clear, it is already against the law to subject Texas children to a wide variety of elective procedures for gender transitioning, including reassignment surgeries that can cause sterilization, mastectomies, removals of otherwise healthy body parts, and administration of puberty-blocking drugs or supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or estrogen,” Abbott wrote the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

This follows state Attorney General Ken Paxton releasing an opinion on Monday characterizing certain “sex change” procedures on children and prescribing puberty-blockers to them as child abuse. Transgender advocates describe the phrase “sex change,” which suggests a transformation rather than affirmation of one’s gender, as offensive. GLAAD, a non-profit whose acronym means Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, prefers the term “transition.”

Abbott echoed support for Paxton’s statement on Tuesday.

“The Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services will enforce this ruling and investigate & refer for prosecution any such abuse,” he wrote.

The directive was met with immediate alarm and opposition, including from actor Anthony Rapp, who declared: “This is evil.”

The ACLU of Texas said state leadership in Texas was threatening trans youth as “part of a politically motivated misinformation campaign that harms children.”

“Paxton’s opinion is not legally binding, and it remains up to the courts to interpret Texas laws and the Constitution,” they said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “Moreover, DFPS cannot remove any child from their parents or guardians without a court order. No court here in Texas or anywhere in the country has ever found that gender-affirming care can be considered child abuse. The opinion released by Paxton cites highly partisan, outdated, and inaccurate information that ignores the consensus of every major medical association and the evidence-based and peer-reviewed standards of care.”

“Anti-trans health bans are often predicated on the lie that such care is always sterilizing,” Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, wrote on Wednesday. “And like with all regulation of reproductive autonomy notions of sterility and preservation of fertility are then used in the service of enhanced state control over bodies/reproduction. Our communities are already surviving so much state & interpersonal violence. The declaration of war against bodily autonomy (and the current Supreme Court’s rubber stamping of it) will come at particular cost to people accessing lifesaving reproductive & gender-affirming care.”

Adri Pèrez, policy and advocacy strategy for LGBTQ equality at the ACLU of Texas, had disparaged Paxton’s opinion as a politically motivated ploy ahead of the competitive March 1 Republican primary primary, according to NBC News. The embattled AG faces an indictment for securities fraud, and aides also accused him of bribery and abuse of office. He has denied wrongdoing.

Pèrez, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said the attorney general’s opinions are not legally binding.

“Ken Paxton’s thoughts on this, no matter what they are, do not affect how a court would or should analyze these issues,” they said. “And as of today, there’s no court in Texas or the entire country that has ever found that gender-affirming care can constitute child abuse.”

Pérez reiterated that stance on Wednesday.

“Gender-affirming care saved my life,” they said as part of the ACLU’s new statement. “Trans kids today deserve the same opportunity by receiving the highest standard of care, rooted in decades of scientific research. No partisan political attack can change that. Our state’s leaders need to focus on helping our youth and all people in our state instead of falsely attacking parents and doctors who are lovingly advocating for their children with the medically necessary care. We will never stop fighting to protect trans kids and their families in Texas.”

Pèrez and Strangio said Paxton’s opinion could nonetheless have a chilling effect on families, with parents who support transgender children facing frivolous reports of abuse. Pèrez said that several parents of trans children in Texas have faced false reports and investigations.

Update – 2:55 pm: We added a statement from the ACLU.

[Image via Brandon Bell/Getty Images]

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