Bills targeting transgender youth have made major headway in state houses and legislatures across the country in the past year. In the political fight led by Republicans, Texas has risen as a leader with not only proposing, but passing bills targeting transgender youth. In the states latest attempt, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is directing government agencies to investigate child gender-affirming care as child abuse under state law.

On February 23, Abbott, in a letter, directed to the state’s Department of Family Protective Services defined gender-affirming care to transgender children as “abusive procedures.“ The letter was also shared with other Texas agencies including the Texas Health and Human Services commission, the Texas Medical Board and the Texas Education Agency.

Following the opinion of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said in a statement the previous week that gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth was abuse, Abbott cited in a statement to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services, saying that certain gender-affirming treatments for transgender children could “legally constitute as child abuse under several provisions” of state law.

Abbott also wrote to the department that it “is responsible for protecting children from abuse.” He later added to the statement in a tweet saying that the agency will be “referred for prosecution of any such abuse.”

Abbott urged Texas doctors and teachers as well, saying that they have an obligation to report instances of such abuse, and that he’ll “provide criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”

The letter was celebrated in Texas’ GOP with the Conservative Texas Freedom Caucus celebrating the release of directives. State representative, Matt Schaeffer, who is the caucus’ vice chair called for a special legislative session to further codify enforcement for gender affirming care.

In a statement, the Tyler republican said, “We can begin immediately by having the Texas medical board investigate the sanctions doctors who perform these types of evil procedures on children or prescribe drugs with the same effect,” He continued to say that “we are not going to back down on this, this is a hill we are ready to die on.”

The letter comes with controversy as many Democrats, medical professionals, LGBTQ+ Americans and transgender advocates have stated that this will put transgender children at higher risk of negative consequences, including suicide. LGBTQ+ youth are already statistically proven to be more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBTQ+ youth, making this a very big concern for the community and its allies.

Some of the biggest criticism has been from the White House, as it slammed the state’s actions for what it could cause for transgender children and their families, saying that a “family should have the right to see healthcare for that will enable young people to live healthy and fulfilled lives“.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Karine Jean Pierce, told the Dallas Morning News that “no parent should face the agony of a politician standing in the way of accessing life-saving care for the child.“

President Biden and Vice President Harris have yet to speak personally on the issue.

Adm. Rachel Levine, the assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a transgender woman, also issued a statement saying “Gender-affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving,” and “Our nation’s leading pediatricians support evidence-based, gender affirming care for transgender young people. HHS stands with transgender youth and their medical providers.”

Other democratic leaders and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups quickly denounced the latest actions by Abbott and Paxton.

It is still not immediately clear on how direct of an impact this will have on parents and children seeking gender-affirming care in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union elaborated this well, even questioning its effectiveness and legality by saying:

“Paxton’s opinion is not legally binding, and it remains up to the courts to interpret Texas laws and the Constitution. Moreover, DFPS cannot remove any child from their parents or guardians without a court order. No court here in Texas or anywhere in the country has ever found that gender-affirming care can be considered child abuse. The opinion released by Paxton cites highly partisan, outdated, and inaccurate information that ignores the consensus of every major medical association and the evidence-based and peer-reviewed standards of care.”

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said the agency reassured however that it would follow the law as laid out in the Attorney General’s opinion.

To read the Governor’s letter and Attorney General’s opinion CLICK HERE.

By Dalton Pastorius

Dalton (he/him) is a senior and one of two opinion editors for the Timber Creek Talon. He has a passion for news and politics and is also the special projects editor for TCTV.