Texas Gov. Orders State Agencies To Investigate Gender-Affirming Care For Trans Kids As Child Abuse


Responding to conservative Republican opposition to gender-affirming care for young transgender Texans, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered the state child welfare agency to investigate reports of “gender-transitioning procedures” as child abuse.

The move came one day after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a written opinion defining gender-affirming care as child abuse under state laws — and months after state lawmakers considered but did not pass similar bills when the Legislature met last year.

Transgender advocates accused Abbott and Paxton of twisting state law to meet their political goals and biases, particularly after efforts to define gender-affirming medical care as child abuse died last year in the Texas House after passage in the Senate.

Religious and social conservatives praised the move.

“This (Paxton) opinion means nothing if it’s not enforced,” said Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler. “The truth is, though, that we need a special session immediately to address this now that we have the backing of the attorney general’s office. We are not going to back down on this — this is a hill we are ready to die on.”

The Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Medical Association and Texas Academy of Family Physicians opposed last year’s legislative efforts to limit gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers, which doctors described as reversible medication that delays the onset of physical changes to allow time for transgender Texans to consider more permanent options.

Several Republican bills also sought to outlaw hormone therapy involving testosterone and estrogen for minors. Doctors testified last year at Capitol hearings that the treatments introduce body changes that are permanent and are generally recommended after age 16. Surgery is generally offered around age 18 and never to young children, they testified.

Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez said the state action could deny “life-saving care for transgender youth.”

“Transgender people already experience stigma and discrimination, harassment and violence simply because of who they are,” Benavidez said, adding that politicians are using vulnerable youths as political pawns. “Regardless of opposition from child welfare and medical groups, Paxton and the Texas GOP continue to create barriers and laws that strip transgender children and their families of civil and equal rights.”

Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said all children deserve to grow up healthy and learn to take care of their bodies in a way that helps them live full, happy lives.

“For transgender kids, this might include gender-affirming care that has been endorsed by pediatricians and proven to help kids’ mental health and future well-being,” the organization said in a statement.

Abbott, in Tuesday’s letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, ordered the agency to conduct “a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.”

“As (Paxton’s opinion) 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 governor added that state law requires licensed professionals who have direct contact with children — including doctors, nurses and teachers — to report instances of “such abuse,” with criminal penalties available for those who fail to report.

“There are similar reporting requirements and criminal penalties for members of the general public,” Abbott wrote.

Texas law also requires the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who allow gender-affirming care for their children, Abbott told the agency.