Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls for investigation and prosecution of parents of transgender children

Coinciding with a nationwide attack against LGBTQ rights, Abbott joins Texas conservatives in claiming that gender-affirming care is child abuse

February 24, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Texas governor Greg Abbott calls gender-affirming care "child abuse", urges investigation and prosecution of parents

On Tuesday, February 22, Texas governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation” into transgender children undergoing gender-affirming medical care. All those found responsible in the investigation can be criminally prosecuted, according to Abbott. 

As stated by Abbott: “Texas law imposes reporting requirements upon all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, and provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse…There are similar reporting requirements and criminal penalties for members of the general public.”

The implication of this directive is that all those in contact with transgender children, including parents, can be investigated and prosecuted. While it is unclear whether the directive can actually be enforced, Abbott’s move may influence the decisions of the Texas political/judicial system, as well as create a culture of fear around transgender healthcare.

This comes as a response to an opinion released by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who concluded that transitional care administered to children “can legally constitute child abuse under several provisions of chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code.” 

Culture wars as a distraction

Transgender and other LGBTQ activists quickly responded with outrage at the harsh penalties implied by the directive. According to transgender activist and journalist Morgan Artyukhina, “Make no mistake: the goal in Texas, and everywhere these fascist laws are implemented, is the total eradication of transgender people from public life.” Some made the connection between the timing of Abbott’s statement, and the unveiling of condemnatory information about his policies: namely, how Abbott instructed the head of the Texas power grid to keep power prices as high as possible as Texans died of hypothermia during the deadly 2021 blackout. 

This newest directive comes during a nationwide wave of conservative policies specifically targeting issues of race, sexuality, and gender in what has been deemed the “culture wars”. Over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in the US in January 2022 alone. Activists Noah Leininger and Morgan Artyukhina argued in Liberation News, “The goal of these attacks on LGBTQ people is to keep the working class divided by blaming a marginalized part of the working class for the economic and social ills caused by giant corporations and rubber stamped by their bought-and-paid-for politicians.” 

These attacks coincided with the Texas government increasingly embracing ultra-conservative policies, like the infamous SB 8 abortion ban, even as the state’s population is diversifying and moving towards the left. Texas has the second largest transgender population in the country, following California. 

Gender-affirming care is safe and necessary, say medical organizations

The Endocrine Society, an international organization dedicated to the research of the endocrine system, affirmed that reversible puberty-delaying medication, also known as hormone blockers, are safe for teenagers who seek to transition. Of Abbott’s statement, The Endocrine Society wrote, “This policy rejects evidence-based transgender medical care and will restrict access to care for teenagers experiencing gender incongruence or dysphoria.”

Other organizations including the the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association also confirm that gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth. Studies have found that such care reduces the chances of depression and suicide among transgender children.