District attorneys in five of the largest counties in Texas on Thursday announced that they will not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) and state attorney general Ken Paxton’s (R) directive that state agencies begin investigating gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths.
The district attorneys of Dallas, Travis, Bexar, Nueces and Fort Bend counties condemned the directive in a statement issued Thursday. The group, which is comprised of five Democratic district attorneys, slammed Abbott and Paxton’s characterization of gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse.” They declared Abbott and Paxton’s recent rhetoric is an “onslaught on personal freedoms” that is on its face “un-American.”
“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,” the district attorneys wrote. “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.”
The group of district attorneys also assured parents that they are “safe” to continue seeking gender-affirming care for their children.
“We will not allow the Governor and Attorney General to disregard Texan children’s lives in order to score political points,” they wrote.
The statement by the group of district attorneys comes just after Abbott sent a letter to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) directing the agency to investigate gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, with a specific focus on surgical care.
“Because the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) 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 to DFPS on Tuesday.
Abbott’s directive followed Paxton’s release of an opinion last week, which characterized certain gender-affirming treatments for minors as a form of “child abuse” under state law. State AG opinions are different than legislature-passed state laws. In Texas, a state attorney general’s opinion is generally seen as a “written interpretation of existing law” that is often considered by judges in the court room, but not a measure that necessarily holds broad and sweeping legal weight.
The Texas governor’s directive echoed a similar sentiment as Paxton’s, saying that some forms of gender-affirming care and surgeries are “abusive procedures.”
In his letter, Abbott also threatened licensed professionals who come into contact with transgender children with “criminal penalties for failure to report” on gender-affirming care. Additionally, the governor’s directive demanded that DFPS and other state agencies investigate parents who permit their transgender children to undergo gender-affirming procedures.
Abbott’s latest anti-trans rights effort comes months after he signed a bill into law that bars transgender girls from playing with female sports teams in Texas public schools.
Last August, the DFPS began recognizing certain gender-affirming surgeries as “child abuse” following pressure from Abbott, who vowed to restrict gender-affirming care for transgender minors in the state.
The moves by Abbott, Paxton and the DFPS come after the state legislature failed to pass a bill that would have made providing gender-affirming care to minors a felony. The letter to DFPS was an executive branch workaround for a failed legislative effort.
Abbott’s directive comes as Republican lawmakers take a pro-parent approach to a slew of state laws and policies in the past year. In short, they’re codifying the GOP’s current grievance issues into state law. Prior to his latest directive, Abbott announced plans to amend the Texas Constitution with a Parent Bill of Rights if he wins re-election. Abbott argued that the bill will ensure parents’ rights to be the prime “decision-makers” when it comes to a child’s education and health care needs.
Texas is among several red states that have escalated attacks against gender-affirming treatments for transgender youths in the past year. Despite Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) veto, state legislators passed the nation’s first law banning gender-affirming care for minors last year. Earlier this month, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed a bill that bars transgender girls and college-age women from participating in female sports. Nine other states, including Texas, have passed similar sports-related bans in schools.
Read the Texas district attorneys’ statement below: