Texas Governor Urges Investigations into Gender-Confirming Health Care

By: - February 24, 2022 12:00 am

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, speaks at an event in February. Abbott asked the state protective services agency to investigate whether some medicine or elective surgeries are provided to transgender children. Jacob Ford/Odessa American via The Associated Press

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a staunch opponent of gender-confirming health care for transgender youth, requested the help of state protective services to investigate claims of “child abuse” for children who receive such care.

Abbott, who is facing a tough reelection fight, sent a letter to the state Department of Family and Protective Services this week asking the agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into whether some medications and medical elective procedures are provided for transgender children, which he called “child abuse.”

Such care, he wrote, could include puberty-blocking medication and gender-confirming surgeries. (Such surgeries rarely are performed on children.)

Abbott wrote that under existing state law, licensed professionals “who have direct contact with children,” including doctors, nurses and teachers, could face criminal penalties if they fail to report cases. The public could face similar criminal offenses, he wrote. He advised parents and other agencies to investigate licensed medical facilities that provide such care.

The letter cited a recent opinion issued by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, that said procedures and treatments such as gender-confirming surgeries or puberty-blocking drugs, when performed on children, can legally constitute child abuse.

“Governor Abbott’s actions are unconscionable. The Paxton opinion is poorly researched, poorly reasoned—and entirely political. While it is not legally binding, it is discriminatory and dangerous, and will have real-life consequences for trans kids and their families,” said Rebecca Marques, Texas state director of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Abbott has requested assistance from the Department of Family and Protective Services. In August, the department said allegations of gender-confirming surgeries “will be promptly and thoroughly investigated and any appropriate actions will be taken,” the Texas Tribune reported.

Last year, Republican lawmakers introduced a higher number of bills placing restrictions on transgender people than in any previous legislative session, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Among them were bills to deny gender-confirming medical care to transgender youth; prevent transgender girls from participating on girls and women’s sports teams; and prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. 

Lawmakers in at least 21 states last year introduced bills that would deny gender-confirming medical care to transgender youth, according to the Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

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Aallyah Wright

Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K-12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta.