Texas declares gender transition procedures on minors are child abuse, and California balks

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling for “prompt and thorough investigation” into reported instances of “gender-transitioning procedures” among minors.

Updated: February 27, 2022 - 10:27pm

Texas is moving to block most gender transition procedures and treatments on minors, a ban that is resonating as far away as California.

The Lone Star state jumped into the fray last week when Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion that certain gender-affirming procedures and treatments, including reassignment surgeries and puberty-blocking drugs, legally constitute “child abuse.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott then issued a letter calling for “prompt and thorough investigation” into reported instances of “gender-transitioning procedures” among minors.

In his letter, Abbott said “licensed professionals” who have direct contact with children are required to report abuse under Texas law, and those who fail to report could be subject to “criminal penalties.”

Abbott also noted that Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a “duty” to investigate parents of minors who undergo what he called “abusive gender-transitioning procedures.”

The directive sparked backlash from California, where officials said Abbott’s call targets transgender children.

“Trans kids and their families should be celebrated — not targeted by the state!” Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted Wednesday. “They are heroes. This order is a direct assault on their wellbeing. To fearful families in Texas right now — California’s door is always open to you.”

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, called Abbott’s move “despicable,” saying that it “criminalizes parents for supporting their trans children and threatens to tear trans kids away from their parents.”

“It will lead to even more trans kids committing suicide,” Wiener said. “I simply cannot comprehend the obsession of right-wing politicians with attacking trans kids and trying to destroy their lives. California will continue to stand strong for trans children and for all LGBTQ people.”

This isn't the only time California officials have denounced policies supported by Abbott.

Last week, Newsom backed new gun legislation modeled after Texas' abortion law. The California law would allow residents to enforce the state's assault weapon ban by suing gun manufacturers and distributors who sell certain kinds of guns.

“If Texas can use a law to ban a woman's right to choose and to put her health at risk, we will use that same law to save lives and improve the health and safety of the people in the state of California," Newsom said after the legislation was announced last week.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta also weighed in on Abbott’s letter, vowing that “California will always stand up for trans rights.”

“Being transgender isn’t a reason to invade someone’s privacy,” Bonta tweeted. “Trans children deserve support, not state-sanctioned harassment. Unlike Texas, California will always stand up for trans rights.”

According to NBC News, it’s unclear whether Abbott or Paxton could force DFPS to investigate claims of child abuse against the parents of transgender kids without new legislation that changes existing law.

In response to Abott’s directive, Harris County Attorney Christian D. Menefee, whose office represents DFPS in civil child abuse cases in the county, said he would “not participate in bad faith political games.”

“Governor Abbott and General Paxton are ignoring medical professionals and intentionally misrepresenting the law to the detriment of transgender children and their families,” Menefee said in a statement.

“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.’”

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