Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued a directive instructing the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate and report on “abusive” gender-transitioning procedures for transgender youth.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate gender-affirming procedures for children as abuse

  • The directive comes following an opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in which he states procedures for children including sex-change operations and the prescription of puberty blockers constitute abuse under state law

  • According to the ACLU of Texas, neither Abbott's directive nor Paxton's opinion have any legal effect and do not change state law

  • Christian Menefee, an attorney who represents the DFPS in child abuse cases in Harris County, said his office will not follow Abbott's directive 

This includes investigation of parents of transgender children who permit them to get procedures including sex-change operations and a regimen of prescribed puberty blockers.

The directive followed a new opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that states that some gender-affirming care for transgender children constitutes child abuse under state law.

“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is responsible for protecting children from abuse, I hereby direct your agency to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas,” Abbott wrote. 

Abbott’s directive has sparked a great deal of controversy as well as blowback from advocates. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said neither Paxton’s opinion nor Abbott’s directive have any effect on state law.

“This opinion and letter have no legal effect and cannot change Texas law nor usurp the constitutional rights of Texas families. But they spread fear and misinformation and could spur false reporting of child abuse at a time when DFPS is already facing a crisis in our state’s foster care system,” ACLU of Texas staff attorney Brian Klosterboer said in a statement.

“The law is clear that parents, guardians, and doctors can provide transgender youth with treatment in accordance with prevailing standards of care. Any parent or guardian who loves and supports their child and is taking them to a licensed healthcare provider is not engaging in child abuse,” Klosterboer continued.

ACLU of Texas policy and advocacy strategist Adri Pérez said they benefited from gender-affirming care.

“Gender-affirming care saved my life. Trans kids today deserve the same opportunity by receiving the highest standard of care, rooted in decades of scientific research. No partisan political attack can change that. Our state’s leaders need to focus on helping our youth and all people in our state instead of falsely attacking parents and doctors who are lovingly advocating for their children with the medically necessary care. We will never stop fighting to protect trans kids and their families in Texas,” Pérez said in a statement.

Christian Menefee, an attorney who represents the DFPS in child abuse cases in Harris County, released a statement in which he said his office won’t follow Abbott’s directive and that it would take a change in state law for him to do so.

“Governor Abbott and General Paxton are ignoring medical professionals and intentionally misrepresenting the law to the detriment of transgender children and their families,” he wrote. “My office will not participate in these bad faith political games. As the lawyers handling these cases, we owe a duty of candor to the courts about what the law really says. We’ll continue to follow the laws on the books-not General Paxton’s politically motivated and legally incorrect ‘opinion.’”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday spoke out about Abbott’s directive, saying, “there are efforts in some states—not just Texas—designed to target and attack kids who need support the most. LGBTQI+ students are already vulnerable to bullying and violence just for being themselves… We’re seeing Republican leaders take actions to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn and what’s troubling who they can or cannot be.”

District attorneys from five Texas counties on Thursday released a joint statement condemning what they called Abbott and Paxton's "anti-trans and life-threatening directives." Those district attorneys are Dallas County's John Creuzot, Travis County's José Garza, Bexar County's Joe Gonzales, Nueces County's Mark Gonzalez and Fort Bend County's Brian Middleton. 

"We are deeply disturbed by Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton’s cruel directives treating transgender children’s access to life-saving, gender-affirming care as “child abuse.” This is part of a continued onslaught on personal freedoms. Elected officials should be protecting our most vulnerable. These two, instead, want to irrationally target and restrain children seeking medical assistance – and force caregivers to participate. This is un-American. We cannot stand silent in the face of such an egregious invasion of privacy. 

"We also want to be clear: we will enforce the Constitution and will not irrationally and unjustifiably interfere with medical decisions made between children, their parents, and their medical physicians. We trust the judgment of our state's medical professionals, who dedicate themselves to providing the highest degree of care not only for our transgender youth, but for all youth in our communities. We want to assure our residents with transgender children that they are safe to continue seeking the care their children need. We will not allow the Governor and Attorney General to disregard Texan children’s lives in order to score political points.

"We have a choice: we can launch politically motivated attacks, or we can lift up and protect communities. We are proud to do the latter."