Feb. 23, 2022
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered state agencies to investigate reports of gender-transition procedures on children as child abuse, which could result in the criminal prosecution of teachers, doctors, and parents of trans children who don’t report the procedures.
Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services directing it “to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.” The letter was copied to several other state agencies.
The letter said outlawed “sex change” treatments include reassignment surgeries, removal of body parts, and the administration of puberty-blocking drugs or supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or estrogen. Supraphysiologic means larger than would appear naturally.
The letter says “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children” could face criminal prosecution if they don’t report instances of gender performing procedures, including doctors, nurses, and teachers. Parents of children who undergo the procedures could be investigated, as well as facilities where procedures are performed.
Abbott said he was acting in response to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s recent opinion that “a number of so-called ‘sex change’ procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.” The Dallas Morning News said the attorney general’s opinions don’t have the force of law but agency heads are expected to follow them.
It’s unclear what immediate effect Paxton’s opinion or Abbott’s letter will have. The Dallas Morning News said state agencies haven’t responded and some prosecutors say they won’t follow the directive of the letter.
“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 the lawyers handling these cases, we owe a duty of candor to the courts about what the law really says. We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books — not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”
A spokesperson with Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the agency will investigate reports of abuse but doesn’t expect to change current policies because of Paxton’s opinion.
“We will follow Texas law as explained [by Paxton’s opinion],” spokesperson Patrick Crimmins said. “At this time, there are no pending investigations of child abuse involving the procedures described in that opinion.”
The letter was copied to the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Education Agency, and other state government departments.
A report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law said about 14,000 Texans between 13 and 17 self-identified as transgender in 2017. The report said about 125,000 people in Texas self-identified as transgender at that time.