Texas Governor Greg Abbott Declares Gender-Affirming Care A Form Of Child Abuse

Texas governor says transgender youth cannot receive medical procedures gender affirming
(Tamir Kalifa / Getty Images)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender minors is a form of child abuse under current state law

It’s hard to process the sheer amount of violence that’s unfolded over the past 24 hours. There is terror overseas with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. An ongoing pandemic and slow-moving action from the federal government continue to threaten the safety and lives of everyone. Simply waking up and scrolling through Twitter feels like an assault in itself with the onslaught of headlines that feel like they should be from a newspaper from the Republic of Gilead.

What’s funny though, is that some government bodies seems to be able to function and act swiftly if it is for something especially heinous, like Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s directive to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to classify gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender youth as a form of child abuse. On February 22, Governor Abbott sent a letter to DFPS saying “a number of ‘sex change’ procedures constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.”

“I hereby direct [DFPS] to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” the governor wrote. The order doesn’t introduce any new laws — it is simply a reinterpretation of existing Texas legislation that allows bigoted cis-het men to decide that any form of gender-affirming treatment for transgender minors is now a punishable crime.

The day before, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spewed the same hateful anti-trans rhetoric, saying, “There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted… (DFPS) has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”

Governor Abbott also called on ‘licensed professionals’ and ‘members of the general public’ to report any form of gender-affirming care to protective services

If educators, medical professionals, or others don’t report these “abuses,” they can face criminal consequences. Sound familiar? Texas passed similar legislation with the abortion ban, which effectively allows misogynist vigilantes to become agents of the state and rat on doctors performing abortions or people receiving them, no matter the circumstances.

Governor Abbott’s call on individuals to report on transgender youth receiving life-saving therapies is another political play more focused on advancing his status in the GOP than serving the people that pay his salary. If his concern was truly protecting children from forms of abuse, he would not banned transgender youth from school sports. He would not have 40 anti-trans bills in circulation. He would not be barking an order that effectively criminalizes the existence transgender or non-binary youth.

There are a handful of county and district attorneys in Texas who have said they will not partake in this draconian practice, but at the end of the day, the decision is in the judge’s hands.

“It’s up to the judge. You could find a judge that may interpret that provision of the family code the same way that Paxton does,” Randall Erben, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told Dallas News. “It could play out in any number of ways … It certainly sets up an uncertain future for things of this nature.”

Gender-affirming practices, such as a change of name, hair, clothing style, or pronoun, along with gender-affirming medical procedures are proven to save the lives of transgender and non-binary children, who are at an exponentially greater risk of depression and suicide. According to the Trevor Project, 82% of transgender individuals have considered taking their own life, and 40% have attempted the act.