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Parents Seeking Transgender Care “Beware”

Written by on February 24, 2022

Parents Seeking Transgender Care “Beware”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling on “licensed professionals” and “members of the general public” to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving gender-affirming medical care. 

The directive was part of a letter Abbott, a Republican, sent Tuesday to the Department of Family and Protective Services, calling on it to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation” of any reported instances of minors undergoing “elective procedures for gender transitioning.”

Abbott’s letter follows an opinion released Monday by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which stated that allowing minors to receive transition care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgery is child abuse under state law. 

Paxton issued the opinion after the Legislature failed last year to pass a bill that would have made it a felony alongside physical and sexual abuse to provide such care to minors. An opinion is an interpretation of existing law; it does not change the law itself but can affect how it is enforced.

In Tuesday’s letter, Abbott tasked licensed professionals who work with children — including teachers, nurses, and doctors — and “members of the general public” with reporting such claims. He added that state law “provides criminal penalties for failure to report such child abuse.”

Advocates allege that both Paxton’s opinion and Abbott’s letter are politically motivated, noting that they were released just ahead of the March 1 Republican primary and that both men face a crowded field of contenders in their re-election bids.

“There’s no court in Texas or the entire country that has ever found that gender-affirming care can constitute child abuse,” 

“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 health care provider is not engaging in child abuse.”

It’s unclear if anyone can force the Department of Family and Protective Services and other state agencies to investigate claims of child abuse against the parents of trans kids without passing legislation that changes the law.

Over the last year, nearly two dozen states considered legislation that would bar access to some or all gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors. Some states, including Texas, considered bills that would’ve charged parents or doctors who provide transition care with a felony. Only two states — Arkansas and Tennessee — have enacted restrictions on such care for minors, and a federal judge blocked Arkansas’ law from taking effect in July.

“No parent should face the agony of a politician standing in the way of accessing life-saving care for their child.”

Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed federal official, states that the Department of Health and Human Services “stands with transgender youth and their medical providers.”

“Our nation’s leading pediatricians support evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender young people,” she said.

Supporters of restrictions on gender-affirming care argue that minors cannot consent to care that includes permanent changes to their bodies. Advocates note that all relevant major medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association — say that gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth and is backed by decades of research. 

“Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions,” the group said in a statement. “The governor’s directive reflects widespread misinformation about gender-affirming care. When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”

The Endocrine Society added that its clinical practice guideline recommends only reversible treatments for adolescents, such as puberty blockers after they have entered puberty. Older adolescents “who demonstrate the ability to provide informed consent to partially irreversible treatment and experience persistent gender incongruence” can start hormone therapy. The guideline also recommends delaying surgery until the age of legal majority, which is 18 in most states.

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