Investigate gender transition procedures as ‘child abuse’

February 23, 2022

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered government agencies to investigate reports of child gender transition procedures as child abuse, which could lead to criminal charges against teachers, doctors and parents of trans children who fail to report the procedures.

Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ordering “to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of reported cases of these abuse proceedings in the State of Texas.” The letter was copied to several other government agencies.

The letter stated that banned treatments for “sex reassignment” included reassignment surgery, removal of body parts and the administration of anti-pubertal drugs or supraphysiological doses of testosterone or estrogen. Supraphysiological means greater than appears natural.

The letter states that “all authorized professionals who have direct contact with children” could face criminal charges if they fail to report cases of gender-performing procedures, including doctors, nurses and teachers. Parents of children undergoing the procedures may be examined, as well as facilities where procedures are performed.

Abbott said he was acting in response to the recent opinion of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that “a number of so-called ‘gender reassignment’ lawsuits constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.” The Dallas Morning News said the attorney general’s advice does not have the force of law, but agency heads will follow it.

It is unclear what immediate effect Paxton’s opinion or Abbott’s letter will have. The Dallas Morning News said government agencies have not responded and some prosecutors say they will not follow the letter’s directive.

“My office will not participate in these bad faith political games,” Harris County attorney Christian D. Menefee said in a statement, according to The Dallas Morning News. “As lawyers handling these cases, we have a duty to be honest with the courts about what the law really says. We will continue to follow the laws on the books – not the politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion’ of General Paxton.”

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the agency will investigate reports of abuse but does not expect to change current policy because of Paxton’s views.

“We will follow Texas law as explained [by Paxton’s opinion]’, said spokesman Patrick Crimmins. “At this point, there are no ongoing investigations into child abuse using the procedures outlined in that advisory.”

The letter was copied to the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Education Agency and other government departments.

A report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law said about 14,000 Texans ages 13 to 17 identified themselves as transgender in 2017. The report said about 125,000 people in Texas self-identified as transgender at the time.

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