Gov. Abbott directs DFPS to investigate, prosecute parents of trans children with ‘child abuse’ charges

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:03 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:05 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) - A letter from Governor Greg Abbott is calling for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate and prosecute parents of children experiencing gender transition, saying the elective procedures related to transition “constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.”

Gov. Abbott’s letter to Commissioner Jaime Masters of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be experiencing gender transition, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, face possible criminal penalties for failure to report these acts as “child abuse.”

In an August 2021 letter from Masters to Abbott, the Commissioner stated a failure to report by state-licensed professionals is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $4,000. Professionals who “intentionally conceal” these instances face the possibility of state jail felony charges.

Medically necessary surgical procedures, such as those stemming from children whose body parts “have been affected by illness or trauma,” or those born with genetic disorders of sex development, and those “who does not have the normal sex chromosome structure for male or female as determined through genetic testing,” may not constitute abuse, according to Commissioner Masters and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Abbott’s letter cites a recent opinion from Paxton, concluding that elective procedures involving children for the purposes of gender transitioning, including the administration of testosterone or estrogen medication and reassignment surgeries, “legally constitute child abuse” under chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code.

Paxton stated Texas law generally recognizes a parent’s right to consent to a child’s medical care, “[B]ut this general right to consent to certain medically necessary procedures does not extend to elective (not medically necessary) procedures and treatments that infringe upon a minor child’s constitutional right to procreate.”

The opinion from Paxton referenced a U.K. legal case from December of 2020 known as Bell v. Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, specifically, the Tavistock clinic’s practice of prescribing puberty suppressing medication to individuals under 18-years-old experiencing gender dysphoria.

However, the U.K.’s Divisional Court concluded in September of 2021 that Tavistock’s policies and practices were not unlawful, concluding that the question of whether minors were competent to consent to the prescription of puberty blockers is left to the judgement of clinicians according to particular individual circumstances.

Paxton’s opinion states the Legislature has not provided any avenue for parental consent in the context of elective sex change procedures for minors, and “no judicial avenue exists” for the child to proceed with these procedures and treatments without parental consent.

Abbott’s letter states the DFPS is “legally imposed” to investigate the parents of a child undergoing gender-transitioning procedures, and other state agencies are imposed “to investigate licensed facilities where such procedures may occur.”

The Texas Chapter of The National Association of Social Workers (NASW/TX) issued a release in response to the Governor’s letter and Attorney General’s opinion, saying they remain opposed to any efforts to include “gender affirming care” under the definition of child abuse.

The National Association of Social Workers testified in 2021 against proposed State legislation attempting to define procedures involving children for the purposes of gender transitioning as child abuse, including a pair of bills proposed by District 28 Senator Charles Perry and District 5 Representative Cole Hefner that failed to be approved into Texas law.

“NASW/TX reminds licensed social workers that this [is] a non-binding legal opinion and they still have professional discretion on mandatory reporting,” the National Association of Social Workers claimed on Wednesday. “No rules on reporting were changed through this opinion, nor through the Governor’s letter.”

Read the full letter from Abbott to the DFPS Commissioner, here:

Gov. Abbott’s letter to Commissioner Jaime Masters of the Texas Department of Family and...
Gov. Abbott’s letter to Commissioner Jaime Masters of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services(The Office of Governor Greg Abbott)

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