87th LegislatureWithout Issuing Opinion, Paxton Says State Already May Investigate Gender Modification as Child Abuse

The attorney general's office still hasn't resolved an official opinion request about the legality of child gender modification.
December 7, 2021
A series of interviews last week left the governor, the state attorney general, and a member of the legislature in a finger-pointing triangle, with each party trading blame over the paralysis of proposals to ban child gender modification.

Now, without resolving the question in his official capacity as chief legal officer of Texas, the attorney general has implied that the state agency in charge of child protection was already tasked with treating these procedures as abuse.

On Tuesday morning, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) claiming that existing Texas law may already count puberty blockers and other medical acts meant to change a child’s gender as abuse.

“To be clear, I trust that DFPS is investigating and taking all appropriate actions against child abuse that may occur through gender reassignment surgery, chemical or surgical castration, puberty blockers, or any other procedure as it relates to children,” Paxton wrote.

Paxton’s office is still handling an official request sent by state Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) inquiring whether puberty blockers and cosmetic surgeries count as child abuse when performed to aid gender transition.

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Today’s letter to the DFPS alludes to this request but does not resolve it.

“The process of working through an Opinion request includes time for receiving briefing from third-parties, consulting with the necessary expertise to think through all the legal implications, the real-world impact, and address all questions of law,” the letter reads.

Previously, Governor Greg Abbott convinced the DFPS to treat genital transition surgeries as child abuse. Krause sent his request to Paxton shortly after another lawmaker asked the DFPS to include puberty blockers, mastectomies, and counseling that encourages transition in their newly expanded definition of child abuse. Abbott and the DFPS have both said that the agency will wait for Paxton’s opinion before making that determination.

Paxton further claims in the letter to the DFPS that his office has already determined puberty blockers and other chemical transition treatments to be abuse before. After a development in the custody case of James Younger, a young Texas boy whose mother insists that he identifies as a girl named Luna, the attorney general’s office sent the DFPS a letter in 2019 asserting that the treatments James’ mother allegedly sought for him would fall under the existing definition of child abuse in the law.

During the regular legislative session this year, Republican lawmakers filed several bills that would have criminalized child gender modification through different means. All wound up in the Public Health Committee of the Texas House, chaired by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth). Krause’s bill, which would have authorized the Texas Medical Board to revoke the licenses of doctors that perform these procedures, was the only one of these bills to make it through this committee.

Due to low agenda placement, Krause’s bill died before receiving a vote on the House floor.

He filed essentially identical bills in the three special sessions that followed, eventually accumulating majority support with over 70 coauthors — including Klick and Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), chairman of the Calendars Committee that set the bill low on the agenda in the regular session. However, during special sessions, the Texas legislature can only act on topics that the governor chooses.


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Isaiah Mitchell

Isaiah Mitchell is a reporter for The Texan, a Texas native, and a huge Allman Brothers fan. He graduated cum laude from Trinity University in 2020 with a degree in English. Isaiah loves playing music and football with his family.