White House Slams 'Dangerous' Move by Texas Governor

Greg Abbott wants gender-transitioning procedures investigated as child abuse
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2022 9:20 AM CST
Texas Governor: Transition Care for Minors Is Child Abuse
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks to supporters during a campaign stop on Feb. 17 in San Antonio.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered Texas' child welfare agency to investigate reports of "gender-transitioning procedures" as child abuse, in a move LGBTQ advocates say will strip transgender children of their rights. Legislation to classify gender-affirming medical care as child abuse passed the state Senate but failed to pass the Texas House last year, with opposition from the Texas Pediatric Society, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Academy of Family Physicians, per the Austin American-Statesman. However, Abbott cited a legal opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who wrote Friday that "'sex change' procedures and treatments" can cause "side effects and harms beyond permanent infertility, including serious mental health effects."

In a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Abbott said the opinion made clear that "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." He added licensed professionals who have direct contact with children, including doctors and teachers, must report "such abuse" or face criminal penalties. While religious and social conservatives applauded the move, transgender advocates said the pair had ignored medical professionals while twisting the law to their own liking.

"Paxton and the Texas GOP continue to create barriers and laws that strip transgender children and their families of civil and equal rights," said Texas Freedom Network President Val Benavidez, who noted the move could prevent "life-saving care for transgender youth." "My office will not participate in these bad faith political games," said Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee, whose office represents the DFPS in civil child abuse cases in the county. Cathryn Oakley, senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said the move wouldn't be enforceable in a court of law, per BuzzFeed. She noted reversible puberty blockers are the first step in medical intervention, but that it's only in adulthood that transgender people undergo surgeries.

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A White House rep said the move was "dangerous to the health of kids," per KXAN, while others said Paxton had ignored the science. Paxton claimed "there is no scientific consensus that these sterilizing procedures and treatments even serve to benefit minor children dealing with gender dysphoria" and "there is no evidence that long-term mental health outcomes are improved." But the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes that "gender diverse youth who are supported to live and/or explore the gender role that is consistent with their gender identity have better mental health outcomes than those who are not," per BuzzFeed. For now, the DFPS says allegations reported to the agency "will be investigated under existing policies of Child Protective Investigations," per BuzzFeed. (More transgender stories.)

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