Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate any reported instances of children undergoing "abusive" gender-transitioning procedures. The announcement comes days after the state's attorney general said that state law characterizes the procedures as child abuse.
"To protect Texas children from abuse, DFPS and all other state agencies must follow the law," Abbott said in a letter sent to DFPS on Tuesday.
Under the directive, licensed professionals will be required to report "children who may be subject to such abuse." Such procedures include "reassignment surgeries that can cause sterilization, mastectomies, removals of otherwise healthy body parts, and administration of puberty-blocking drugs or supraphysiologic doses of testosterone or estrogen," the governor said.
All licensed professionals in the state who directly interact with children, including teachers and doctors, could face criminal penalties for not reporting the procedures, Abbott noted in his letter. The general public could also be subject to penalties for failing to make reports.
The governor directed the DFPS and other state agencies to investigate parents of transgender children, as well as licensed facilities where kids receive gender-transitioning procedures.
The directive comes days after Texas Attorney General Paxton declared in a formal opinion that the procedures are considered child abuse under state law. He called gender-transitioning procedures "monstrous and tragic," and said it subjects children to "obvious harm."
"There is no doubt that these procedures are 'abuse' under Texas law, and thus must be halted," Paxton said. "I'll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans."
But LGBTQ nonprofit organization The Trevor Project says access to gender-affirming medical care is useful in addressing mental health issues for young people. The group cited a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which found that hormone therapy is "significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth."
The organization's CEO and executive director Amit Paley condemned Abbot's directive.
"Texas parents who support their trans kids should be applauded, not prosecuted," Paley said in a statement. "The government should not be involved in personal decisions that force doctors and families to act against the medical community's standards of care for transgender young people."
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also criticized the governor's move, saying that "the only result of his action will be unnecessary harm to trans people and parents of trans youth."
"Healthcare is just that—care, and to suggest that trans youth should be separated from their families sends a terrifying and alarming message to kids and parents not just in Texas, but nationwide," GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement.
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