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Governor Greg Abbott on Friday asked the top Texas Department of Family Protective Services official to determine whether some gender confirming surgeries for transgender children are child abuse under applicable state law.
Abbott pledged last month to take action to restrict transition-related medical care for transgender minors in Texas. Friday’s decision comes months after a bill that sought to define multiple types of healthcare claiming gender like child abuse was passed by the Texas Senate before gaining little weight in the House.
But medical experts say gender-affirming care for transgender children rarely, if ever, includes the use of surgeries – orchiectomies, hysterectomies and mastectomies – Abbott cited in his letter Friday to DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters. Most care for transgender children includes social transition and puberty blockers.
Experts also took issue with Abbott’s language in the letter, which repeatedly referred to the confirmatory surgery as “genital mutilation.”
Andrea Segovia, field and policy coordinator for the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said Abbott’s move was a continuation of Texas Republican leaders bullying marginalized children.
“It is literally the harshest language possible, because he wants a reaction from him,” she said. “And they can win fans over by saying, ‘Oh, that sounds awful. Yes, we shouldn’t be doing that to our miners.
Equality Texas issued a statement criticizing Abbott’s letter.
“This is nothing more than another political attempt to stigmatize transgender people, their loving families and the health care providers who provide them with life-saving care,” said CEO Ricardo Martinez.
Abbott’s office did not respond to comments. DFPS spokesperson Marissa Gonzales said in a statement to the Texas Tribune: “The commissioner has received the governor’s letter and we will start working immediately.
For years, Republicans in Texas have introduced legislation targeting transgender people, with little success. In 2019, Attorney General Ken Paxton urged state agencies to investigate whether a mother supporting her 7-year-old’s gender transition was committing “child abuse.”
Earlier this week, former state senator Don Huffines, who will challenge Abbott in next year’s Republican primary, criticized the governor for not doing enough to protect Texas children from “mutilation” while also touting the father’s approval of the transgender child that caught Paxton’s attention in 2019.
Doctors and advocates in Texas see Abbott’s letter more as a political movement than as having much of an impact on gender-affirming care as it is currently practiced in Texas.
“It sounds like something to appease the base, but it doesn’t do much,” said Seth Kaplan, president of the Texas Pediatric Society.
“This is not a cause for alarm,” she said. “Our organization doesn’t want the community, parents or anyone else to think this is a letter saying medical appointments and anything like that should stop.”
Disclosure: Equality Texas has financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the Tribune‘journalism. Find a full list of them here.
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